Could divisional round exploits shorten Panthers head coaching list?

(Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports) Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott
(Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports) Kellen Moore and Dak Prescott /

Could the performances of various head coaching candidates during the playoff divisional round shorten the Carolina Panthers’ options?

The Carolina Panthers are currently chopping it up with Sean Payton about the possibility of becoming their next head coach. This would be a daring move considering the draft compensation demands of the New Orleans Saints, who also occupy a position within the NFC South and will likely drive a hard bargain if team owner David Tepper went in this direction.

Steve Wilks remains in strong contention, which is only right after the phenomenal turnaround accomplished by the interim head coach. Securing a 6-6 record after Matt Rhule’s firing was no mean feat, especially considering the Panthers traded both Christian McCaffrey and Robbie Anderson before the deadline.

A number of other bright offensive minds have also been interviewed with the Panthers in recent days. Most of whom were showcasing their capabilities during the NFL’s playoff divisional round this weekend.

However, it was a mixed bag. To put it mildly.

Carolina Panthers could shorten their head coaching candidates in the near future

Something that might end up shortening Carolina’s list of options when push comes to shove.

Let’s start with Mike Kafka, whose time as New York Giants offensive coordinator in 2022 is littered with encouraging progress. This wasn’t enough to shine again in the postseason, with the team falling flat on their face at the Philadephia Eagles during a game that turned into a demolition job.

Ken Dorsey didn’t fare much better as the Buffalo Bills crashed out in front of their home fans against the Cincinnati Bengals. The former quarterbacks’ coach in Carolina was found wanting and it’s evident quarterback Josh Allen has stagnated without Brian Daboll calling the shots.

Will this alter the Panthers’ thought process? Only time will tell.

There was also an audition for Kellen Moore versus the San Francisco 49ers’ vaunted defense. Something the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator couldn’t overcome as the team mustered just 12 points to send them packing.

This spoke more about DeMeco Ryans than anything else. But whether the Panthers sort another date out with the one-time linebacker after logistics prevented an earlier interview remains to be seen.

The only candidate to emerge from the divisional round with any credit was Shane Steichen. The Eagles decimated an improving Giants’ defense with minimal fuss thanks in no small part to their outstanding offensive game plan, which pulled them 28-0 clear early and saw out the contest in comfortable fashion.

Of course, it’s important to examine a candidate’s full body of work rather than just one game. However, these failings might not be ignored by Tepper as he looks to finally get the right man at the helm.

Much will depend on how the meeting goes with Payton, obviously. And the Panthers would be wise not to ignore Wilks’ impressive accomplishments in challenging circumstances once the Rhule era mercifully ended way ahead of time.

With important events such as the 2023 Senior Bowl fast approaching, Carolina must act fast to secure their guy. But in Steichen’s case, it’s another week before he can even interview in person if the Panthers have him high on their list of options.

Time is of the essence. This is why the longer it goes, the better chance Wilks has at securing the position – in theory.

Nothing can be ruled out when it comes to Tepper, who doesn’t have the best track record where football decisions are concerned. Whether the billionaire will be swayed one way or another by what occurred over the divisional round is debatable, but it cannot be ruled out entirely.

As always, fans must remain patient and hope for the right outcome.

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