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Carolina Panthers

Frank Reich gives the Panthers a new perspective

Frank Reich

CHARLOTTE — There are a lot of reasons the Panthers agreed to terms with Frank Reich to be their new head coach on Thursday.

But the shortest and simplest is they wanted to do something different.

By hiring an established offensive mind, the Panthers give themselves something they've never really had in their first 28 years of existence — a head coach from that side of the ball.

Reich stands out as a guy who has handled many different situations well and succeeded. He went 40-33-1 in Indianapolis with a constantly changing cast at quarterback.

In his four full seasons there, they had three top-10 scoring offenses with three different quarterbacks (Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, and Carson Wentz), and went to the playoffs twice.

He's been Peyton Manning's position coach as well. That kind of background working with quarterbacks makes him attractive here, where the team has clearly been looking for a long-term answer there and will continue to.

He won a Super Bowl ring in Philadelphia as the offensive coordinator on a team playing its backup quarterback. Twenty-five years earlier, he was the backup who led what was at the time the biggest comeback in league history when the Bills rallied from a 35-3 deficit to beat the Oilers in the 1992 playoffs.

And, of course, he was the first starting quarterback for the expansion Panthers in 1995, the guy they chose to lay the foundation here.

Frank Reich

But he also stands out historically in Panthers' history for other reasons.

The first four head coaches rose through the ranks as defensive coordinators, from Dom Capers to George Seifert to John Fox to Ron Rivera. Matt Rhule was neither an offensive nor defensive guy, describing himself as a CEO-type administrator.

Perhaps not coincidentally, in 28 years of existence, the Panthers have finished in the top 10 in total offense exactly three times.

The first was in 1999 (sixth overall), when Seifert seemed to bring his 49ers magic to turn Steve Beuerlein, Muhsin Muhammad, Patrick Jeffers, and Wesley Walls into Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, and Dwight Clark.

The second was in 2008 (10th overall), when Jake Delhomme, Steve Smith, Muhammad, DeAngelo Williams, and Jonathan Stewart hit their statistical peak while representing the effective end of the Fox era.

The third time was in 2011 (seventh overall), when a bright shining Cam Newton burst into town, bringing the kind of sizzle on offense the franchise hadn't really known — or any franchise really, since Newton was one of one.

But for the 25 other years, the Panthers have been defined by their ability to stop opponents more than being the ones you try to stop. When you have Hall of Famers such as Sam Mills and Kevin Greene, or future Hall of Famers such as Julius Peppers and Luke Kuechly, that's easier to sustain.

Now, the Panthers are charting a new course, and Reich gives them an opportunity to change their style while sliding comfortably into a city that's changed considerably since the last time he was here.

He's been there. He's done that. His experience set him apart from all the other offensive coaches they interviewed. And while his background is different than the guys who held the job before him, his personality makes him a fit here. Reich is understated, he's calm, but he exudes the gravity and leadership the job demands.

Of course, he's walking into a situation with some uncertainty on offense, but his previous work with a variety of different quarterbacks makes him well-suited for the task at hand.

Figuring out how to put those pieces together on offense, and build on them, is Reich's job now.

And he gets a chance to put his own stamp on it, from a background no other Panthers coach has. And he gets to bring the franchise back to its original starting point, with a chance to start something new all over again.

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