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5 things to know about new Panthers coach Dave Canales

TAMPA, FL - JUL 26: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales points towards a position on the field during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp on July 26, 2023 at the AdventHealth Training Center at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - JUL 26: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales points towards a position on the field during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Training Camp on July 26, 2023 at the AdventHealth Training Center at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It's the dawn of a new era on Mint Street. The Carolina Panthers have agreed to terms with Dave Canales to be the seventh head coach in franchise history. Canales comes to Charlotte from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after one year as offensive coordinator with the Bucs.

Canales joins new President of Football Operations/General Manager Dan Morgan to lead the club. Morgan was named to his new post last week.

Canales will hit the ground running, preparing for the 2024 NFL draft. But first, as he gets acquainted with the Panthers fan base, here are five facts to know about new Carolina head coach Dave Canales.

He grew from the Pete Carroll tree

In the span of six years, Canales went from selling cowboy boots to serving on Pete Carroll's staff at USC. It was both a tedious and accelerated journey. The Southern California native had always felt coaching was in his bones, as Conor Orr recently wrote for Sports Illustrated. But as life got in the way, the way life does, he took a job at a start-up, selling Rudy Lara cowboy boots. After two years, he joined Carson High School as an offensive coordinator and then became the special teams and tight ends coach at El Camino College.

That job led to Canales working coaching clinics with Pete Carroll, who was the head man at USC at the time. That friendship led to Carroll hiring Canales as the Trojans' assistant strength coach. It's a low-level job meant to be a foot in the door. Canales took the opportunity and ran with it, using his one year under Carroll to make an impression on the coach. When Carroll took the job with the Seattle Seahawks one year later, he brought Canales to the Pacific Northwest.

Canales spent 13 years in Seattle, rising from wide receivers coach to passing game coordinator and quarterback's coach. His time with the Seahawks intersected with Morgan for eight seasons.

He specializes in QB resurrections

Three times, he led quarterbacks to the best seasons of their respective careers. Canales was the passing game coordinator in Seattle when Russell Wilson had his best year for completion percentage (68.8) and touchdowns (40) in 2020. That season, Wilson also posted his second-best yardage total (4,212) and third-best completion passer rating (105.1). He was the wide receivers coach the year Wilson threw for his most yardage (4,219) in 2016. Canales was serving as quarterbacks coach in 2018 when Wilson posted his best passer rating overall (110.9) and again in 2022 when Geno Smith went through a resurgence.

That 2022 season saw Smith post his best yardage total (4,282), completion percentage (69.8, which led the NFL), passing touchdowns (30), passer rating (100.9), and rushing yardage (366). Smith won Comeback Player of the Year that season.

Canales then went to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he led Baker Mayfield to his best yardage total (4,044), completion percentage (64.3), passing touchdowns (28), and second-best passer rating (94.6), and second-best rushing yardage in his career.

The 42-year-old was either the passing game coordinator or quarterbacks coach for four of Russell Wilson's Pro Bowls, one of Smith's, and the aforementioned Comeback Player award for Smith. The latter is also something Mayfield has been in consideration for this season.

His offensive play calling is cerebral

As Orr outlined in his profile of Canales, his offensive scheme is an assortment of many schemes, never leaning on one identity too much. Instead, the play-caller likes to rely on the mental side of the game to give his players a more significant advantage. His receivers aren't put into a box labeled slot or outside. Instead, they learn and run the whole route tree.

Evans, who had the second-best season of his career in 2023, flourished with Mayfield and under Canales. The future Hall-of-Famer tweaked his game under Canales' instruction, using his eyes more to move defenders, even in the middle of a route. It's a tactic that play-callers can employ to level the playing field and give an even more significant advantage when equipped with the physical talent available in the NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales reviews the play sheet on the sidelines during an NFL wild-card playoff football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Doug Murray)

Only Hispanic coach in the NFL

With the Panthers hiring, Canales becomes the only active Hispanic head coach in the NFL. His paternal grandparents, Miguel and Lupe, immigrated from Mexico to California in the early 1900s. His grandfather served under General George Patton in World War II.

Canales joins a small fraternity of Hispanic head coaches in the NFL; he is only the fifth in league history. Previous coaches were Ron Rivera, former Panthers and Washington Commanders coach; Brian Flores, current defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings and previously head coach for the Miami Dolphins, who is of Honduran descent; Tom Fears, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and was the head coach of the New Orleans Saints from 1967-1970; and Tom Flores, who was the first Hispanic head coach in the league, and won three Super Bowls while coaching the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, from 1979-1987.

Comes from a family of inspirers and communicators

When Canales finished interviewing for the offensive coordinator job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, those in the building praised his understanding of the game and, as Carmen Vitali of Fox Sports reported at the time, "how great of a teacher and communicator" he was.

Canales comes by those traits naturally, raised in a family of communicators and teachers; the rest of the Canales family all serve as ministers in the church founded by his grandfather, Mission of Ebenezer, in Carson, California. According to the Orr profile, the church was founded in 1959 and now ministers to over 3,000 parishioners. His father served as lead pastor for years; now Canales' two brothers serve as lead and associate pastor, while his mom and other family members serve on staff.

View photos of Dave Canales during his successful previous stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks.

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