CHARLOTTE – Back in January, it seemed like every college and pro team would have wanted to add Joe Brady to its coaching staff after he helped steer LSU to a national championship.
Of course, head coach Matt Rhule lured Brady to Charlotte to become Carolina's offensive coordinator. And while they've technically worked together for about six months now, some unknowns remain in the pair's working chemistry.
"The reality is — and I say this because Joe's become very close with me — I'll have no idea, really, about Joe Brady until we get to the season," Rhule said with a laugh after the Panthers wrapped up their virtual offseason program. "You really can't find out about what it's like to coach with a guy until things go bad. When you're getting booed off a field and all heck is breaking loose, that's when you really find out about people.
"Everyone gets along in the offseason. Everyone loves everyone in OTAs. You find out about your locker room; you find out about your coaches, you find out about yourself when things go wrong."
Still, Rhule added he couldn't be more impressed with what Brady did to implement his offense — albeit virtually — over the past few months.
"The reason why I wanted to hire Joe was (that) at LSU, he ran a version of the Saints' system. As a college coach, I studied NFL tape all the time," Rhule said. "Obviously, with them being in the NFC South, I have so much respect for (head coach) Sean Payton, their system, their ability to consistently execute and play at the highest of levels. And so you see Joe with his own take put on something that's really strong fundamentally and sound fundamentally."
It would be fair to expect an acclimation period with a new staff under any circumstances, but especially now since the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out all in-person offseason activities. The shift to online learning did allow Carolina to focus on schematic details, which is part of why Brady wouldn't assign a percentage when asked how much of the offense had been installed through June.
"I remember the first meeting I told the guys, 'I want you to be so proactive in your own development that you try to master this system,'" Brady said. "So when you have that opportunity, well, why hurry up through installs just to say we have the whole offense in?"
In a typical offseason program, topics in morning meetings are primarily determined by what the team would practice later on the field, like red-zone plays or third-down drills. This spring, Brady instead gave players a clear view of the entire offensive picture. That way, they would have a deeper understanding of the "why" for every play call.
Rhule liked the approach, praising Brady for his attention to detail.
"For being such a young guy, he is a football grinder," Rhule said. "A lot of guys, they have a system and they're so smart — Joe's a grinder. He's constantly working on football, and I think the players recognize that."
But when it comes to working together on Sundays, Rhule may not have to worry about Brady's demeanor.
"Coach uses the term "humble confidence," and I think that was critical for me. You're humble enough to prepare, but you're confident enough to perform," Brady said. "So I'm one of those guys that people might think I don't have any emotion. From that standpoint on game day, I'm very even-keel, and I think that's a huge advantage come game time.
"But I'm a competitor. I don't just coach just because I feel like this is what I have to do. I coach and I love the competitive juices of game day and those elements. You live for the red zones, the third downs, the two-minute situations. So from a pressure element and standpoint, that's something I never think about. I just know at the beginning of the week, it's going to take a lot of preparation that's going to come and take place, so when the game day comes, I feel confident in our team's ability to have success."
View photos from Joe Brady's time at William & Mary, Penn State, New Orleans, LSU and now Carolina.