CHARLOTTE – Thomas Brown felt like his interview for the Panthers' offensive coordinator job went well last week, but he stayed on the edge of his seat until the offer arrived Friday.
The 36-year-old admitted he hadn't previously jumped at every NFL coaching opportunity. A Georgia native with a brief NFL playing career and nine years coaching college football, Brown remained in the college ranks until a job on Sean McVay's staff with the Rams arose in 2020.
Brown said he'd had NFL opportunities in the past, but chose to hold out for the best fit. The chance to work alongside offensive-minded head coach Frank Reich, bring his wife Jessica and sons Orlando (14), Tyson (13), and Judah (5) back to the South, and immerse himself in Charlotte made sense.
"I was sitting on pins and needles for half a day," Brown said. "I kind of had a good feeling after the interview on Thursday that it would go my way, but you never know until it's officially done. Being able to have a chance to hear from Frank, who has been awesome through the entire process, and then I told my family and my wife; my three boys (are) all excited about coming back to the South, being in Carolina."
Reich took a thorough approach while assembling his staff, dedicated to finding his ideal candidates regardless of previous relationships. He didn't know Brown well before hiring him, but was pleased to land him from "outside that circle."
"It was a great process to get to know him," Reich said. "We went into this, I mean, it was kind of crazy – that normally, you go in, and you've got a small search of guys that you know, or at least know a friend of a friend. Thomas was not in that category. … The more I looked into it, I was like, 'Wow.' Everywhere I checked, he's impressive."
Brown gushed about his new coworkers at Carolina. The offensive staff (including Reich and senior assistant Jim Caldwell) combine for 93 years of NFL coaching experience, averaging 10.3 years across the group of nine.
"We've got a dream staff," Brown said. "In my opinion, it's the best staff, on paper, I've ever been a part of. Tons of experience, different backgrounds. To me, it's always about what's right versus who's right."
Brown said he'd spoken with offensive line coach James Campen to compliment the Panthers' physicality down the stretch last season, as the line blocked well for a more dominant run game and rotation of quarterbacks. He's known of assistant head coach/running backs coach Duce Staley for years, looking up to his coaching career and style. He's already had early conversations with the younger coaches, passing game coordinator Parks Frazier and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown.
Brown looks forward to working alongside Caldwell, a coaching veteran he called "a living legend." He first met Caldwell at last year's Quarterback Coaching Summit in Los Angeles.
"Jim Caldwell (is) someone I've had a ton of respect for for a long time," Brown said. "I had a chance to connect with him at the QB summit this past year, just trying to pick his brain as much as I can. A day and a half was not enough time for me, so I'm thankful to have a chance to work with him full-time."
Brown will also get another chance to coach on the other side of the ball from Ejiro Evero. He worked in Los Angeles with Evero for two seasons while the Panthers' new defensive coordinator coached safeties and served as a passing game coordinator over the secondary. The two were together during the Rams' Super Bowl run for the 2021 season.
"He's a natural leader," Evero said of Brown. "He walks into the room; he commands respect. He's extremely intelligent. He's very detailed. He's very thorough. And he's very businesslike – he just has that great way about him. I think he just gains – any time anybody spends any time with him – (it's) instant credibility."
After playing running back at the University of Georgia from 2004-07 (one year he overlapped with former Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, and he spent three years with former Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson), Brown had a short NFL playing career with the Falcons and Browns. He returned to his alma mater as a strength and conditioning coach in 2011 and coached running backs for the next four years at Chattanooga, Marshall, Wisconsin, and Georgia before taking his first offensive coordinator job at Miami (Fla.) from 2016-18.
Another position coaching running backs at South Carolina preceded his NFL job in Los Angeles, where he started with running backs before a promotion to assistant head coach in 2021 and moving over to tight ends in 2022.
Brown said he considered himself to be a "sponge" throughout his time with McVay, and he'll lean on the lessons he learned from winning a Super Bowl to dealing with a 5-12 downturn in consecutive seasons.
"I've been spoiled to win a Super Bowl and have every desire, hope, and dream to get back to that point. But it's a lot of work that goes into that process," Brown said. "It's also not guaranteed. That's what I learned from this past year. We talked a bunch last year about the Super Bowl hangover, trying to get over the hump. There were a number of different factors that went into it.
"But it was also a great learning opportunity for me. I think sometimes you learn a lot more from your failures than you do from your successes. So it was great to have – even though it was rough at times – those seasons back-to-back."
Outside Bank of America Stadium, Brown and his family are ready to dive into Charlotte. He and his wife Jessica have started the search for a new house. Inside the facility, Brown's next steps are learning names, bonding with the staff, and preparing for the combine.
"I've heard so many great things about this place, the city," Brown said. "So I'm excited about just getting fully immersed in the football aspect of it. Learning people in the building, and also (getting) out in the community as well."
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.