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Notebook: Thomas Brown talks about play-calling change

Thomas Brown, Frank Reich

CHARLOTTE — Panthers offensive coordinator Thomas Brown said he didn't necessarily expect to be replaced as play-caller after getting that duty three games ago. However, he also understands that the underlying reason for both changes is the team's lack of consistent success on offense.

"This is a grown man's business, and I'm gonna handle this the same way with every other situation moving forward," Brown said Thursday, a day after head coach Frank Reich reclaimed the play-calling duties which he held for the first six weeks of the season. "And as a grown man, to me when you talk about true leadership, the role of a leader is to make people and situations better, right? So I've been that way, committed to that my entire career before being here since being here, and continue to do that moving forward, right? One thing a leader does not do is tuck his tail between his legs and find ways of running high from conflict or adversity. To me, it's the exact opposite. Stand tall, keep chopping wood, and find ways to fix problems to help people; that's what it's about. And so here we are, moving forward, focusing on the Cowboys.

"The overall product offensively has not been good enough all year, and as a competitor, that pisses me off. But the reality is we have to do a better job as coaches of coaching our players, demanding more to put these guys in better spots to have a better product on game day. And from a player standpoint, we have opportunities on game day to make plays; we've got to make them right."

Brown said he and Reich discussed the switch in stages, and by the weekend, he realized it was pointing in this direction. But even though he won't be deciding which plays to run when, he said everything else about his job was the same, from installations to preparation.

"I had a pretty good idea just based on some other conversations post the game and even other weeks that could be a possibility," Brown said. "I'm not going to say that it's something I saw coming.

"Also, I'm not going to say that I'm necessarily surprised by it, but we live in a production business, a results-driven business. And every decision is supposed to be focused on trying to find ways to help the football team win. So he made the decision to give me an opportunity to be a play caller. He also made the decision to also take it back to having him be the play-caller. So, I have nothing else to do, but I respect that decision and continue to do a really good job of moving forward and helping our football team and our players be in the best spot. It's my overall goal and my responsibility, regardless of feelings and emotions."

— Reich said earlier this week he second-guessed his own decision to let kicker Eddy Piñeiro try a 59-yard field goal last week in Chicago, saying he'd have preferred to let quarterback Bryce Young try to make a play on fourth-and-10 (despite the analytics telling him the field goal was the safer play).

Piñeiro missed the kick, but special teams coordinator Chris Tabor said he was confident in him at that distance since the notoriously fickle winds of Solider Field were at his back going that direction.

"I've got a lot of confidence in Eddy; I've seen him hit those kicks," Tabor said. "Eddy was kicking real well. You notice all the touchbacks were going that way because the wind was aiding it going that way. Like I say, at the end of the day, got a lot of confidence in our guy, and I think he's a really good player."

Asked what Piñeiro's maximum range was, and Tabor said he's seen him hit from 60 in practice and pregames, though the precise calculation is made before each game based on conditions including the playing surface. Tabor will walk around the field and pick up bits of grass to check, leaving no detail unconsidered. (The former Bears assistant mentioned in passing that the wind patterns are different on the left side of their bench compared to the right.)

"I always like to say, I go out and walk the track, see how the horses are going to run that day," Tabor said. "And see how the wind's playing, and then you start formulating things and seeing how the ball flies, then you get into pregame and seeing how he's striking the ball. And then from there, you begin to set your line."

— Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero said he expected outside linebacker Brian Burns to play this week but was still in wait-and-see mode (and leave it for Reich to talk about mode) on cornerback Jaycee Horn's condition.

Burns cleared the concussion protocol Thursday and was a full participant in practice. Horn was a limited participant as he comes back from his hamstring injury after missing the last eight games. 

Evero laughed and said that over their "mini-bye" weekend, he was able to watch the Cowboys on television. It didn't help that he saw his next opponent hang 49 on the Giants, but he said they review the television copy of each opponent's previous game anyway to try to pick up on "communication" prompts.

"I did sit down and watch it," Evero said. "So it was hard to have a relaxing Sunday when I'm like, like trying to figure these guys out on the spot. But it was good to be on the couch, though."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday as they prepare to face the Dallas Cowboys.

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