CHARLOTTE – Frank Reich decided there would be a point he would pass along play-calling duties to his offensive coordinator when he went into the hiring process. He just isn't yet sure when to pass the baton.
The Panthers' new head coach said in a press conference Tuesday he knew it would be tough to give up the responsibility; he did call plays as the Colts' head coach. Reich determined he'd start his stint at Carolina as the offensive play caller, eventually passing on that responsibility to new offensive coordinator Thomas Brown at a point to be determined.
"I've laughed with Thomas about it already," Reich said. "I said, 'I'm going to pass it off at some point.' I don't know when, but I think there will be a time and a place. And I think it'll become apparent when that is."
Brown has previously called plays at the college level, working as the offensive coordinator at Miami (Fla.) from 2016-18. He worked under Sean McVay for three seasons with the Rams, coaching running backs and tight ends as well as serving as an assistant head coach for two years.
Brown, who was hired last Friday and first came into the building Monday, is in the early stages of building his rapport with Reich. The two didn't have history before Brown was hired here, and Reich said he saw broadening the search for assistants outside of his prior networks as a benefit.
"The more I looked into it, it was like, 'Wow.' Everywhere I checked, he's impressive," Reich said. "Get him on the Zoom, it's even more impressive. Get him in person, it's even more impressive. I think that's how it's supposed to work. Take your time, don't rush. Hire the best coach at the end of the day."
Reich said he felt calling plays was "the right thing" for him to do at the start of the season, but he also said he anticipates leaning on Brown's expertise. He spoke highly of Brown's "wisdom, conviction, and strength" through their first conversations.
"It's going to be hard to let go, but I do know that I do want to let it go," Reich said. "I talked to Thomas just a couple times, and I think, 'OK, it's going to be pretty easy to let go to a guy like this.' Just feeling his presence already, feeling his poise."
– Reich said the Panthers will adopt new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero's 3-4 base defense he used in Denver, but he made it clear Evero wasn't hired purely for his scheme.
"We decided to go with it because of Ejiro," Reich said. "I was hiring the man, not the scheme. I was hiring the man; I was hiring the leader. … He could coach any scheme he wanted. He's going to be good at it, so that was my take on that."
Reich also emphasized how the base defense is only used about 20 percent of the time, leaving the remaining 75-80 percent of plays in multiple fronts.
He said he anticipates Evero to utilize the roster's strengths on defense as he puts together packages, one of the benefits of hiring the former Broncos' defensive coordinator.
"I think (the scheme) benefits good players because I think it benefits versatile players," Reich said. "We're going to be in multiple fronts and multiple personnel groups on defense and on offense to accentuate what our guys do well. And that's one of the things I liked about what Ejiro brings to the table, that he knows how to do that on the defensive side."
– Reich credited owner David Tepper for having "never flinched" on his previous statement that there wasn't a salary cap on hiring coaches.
"He's been around the block a few times, in a few ways," Reich said. "That doesn't mean it's open-checkbook. That just means we're willing to do what it takes to get the right coaches and put the right team together. It was a good checks and (balances).
"He backed up what he said, I can tell you that. We were able to compete against other teams who were vying for similar candidates, where we came out on top because of that backing."
Reich said the vetting process around crafting the experienced staff was "dynamic" between himself, Tepper, and general manager Scott Fitterer, working to create "diversity of thought" in staff meeting rooms.
The group needs only a tight ends coach (which Reich said could be expected within 24-48 hours of his Tuesday press conference) and plans to meet in its entirety for the first time Wednesday. Reich said they'll start with a current roster evaluation before moving on to free agency analysis and looking at college players ahead of the draft.
Thomas Brown spent three seasons with the Rams from 2020-22 after a number years in the college ranks at South Carolina (2019), Miami (2016-18), Georgia (2015) and Wisconsin (2014). He played college football at Georgia and was in the NFL with the Falcons.