Panthers send strong message with James Campen and Chris Tabor

(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) James Campen
(Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports) James Campen /

The Carolina Panthers retaining James Campen and Chris Tabor represents a strong message under new head coach Frank Reich.

It’s been a long time since the Carolina Panthers made serious football moves consistently. Matt Rhule’s disastrous stint with the organization came with false promises and misery aplenty, but Steve Wilks did restore a sense of respectability as interim despite not doing enough to win the head coaching job long-term.

That honor went to Frank Reich, who’s just finished speaking in front of the media for the first time since assuming command. Just a few short hours before his long-awaited appearance, Panthers fans received a sensational piece of news regarding two highly regarded coaches from the previous regime.

After much speculation, the Panthers are retaining offensive line coach James Campen and special teams coordinator Chris Tabor. This represents a real statement of intent and sends out a strong message before a hugely important offseason gathers pace.

Carolina Panthers keeping James Campen and Chris Tabor is the right call

Both coaches provided an exceptional contribution in 2022. Campen’s work to mold the offensive line into one of the league’s most improved units was exemplary – something that drew widespread plaudits from across the NFL.

Tabor’s special teams unit finished No. 4 league-wide in Rick Gosselin’s respected rankings thanks to their remarkable improvements. Something in keeping with how the coach galvanizes individuals wherever he goes.

There was some concern among the team’s fanbase that Tabor and Campen would be surplus to requirements under a new head coach. However, a recent report stating David Tepper and Scott Fitterer pushed for the pair to return during interviews highlights just how important they’ve become in a short space of time.

Reich is no fool. He knows good football coaches when he sees them, so keeping Campen and Tabor around got his seal of approval.

And with good reason.

This keeps continuity at an important stage in franchise history. Providing the Panthers can work out an extension with starting center Bradley Bozeman and interior linemen Brady Christensen and Austin Corbett return quickly from serious injuries, the protection should be another major asset when competitive action commences in 2023.

As for special teams, Carolina could have a kicking competition brewing between Zane Gonzalez and Eddy Pineiro if the latter receives a deserved extension. Other key special teamers such as Sam Franklin should also return under Reich, giving the Panthers a good chance of progressing further in the second year with Tabor calling the shots.

Campen and Tabor’s experience and NFL acumen will be invaluable. Reich needs sound football men around him during his important transition, so this is a win-win for absolutely everybody associated with the franchise.

There will be plenty of coaching and playing personnel turnover between now and when OTAs begin. Having Campen and Tabor in the building keeps a sense of belonging for those who developed significantly under their guidance during the previous campaign.

It’s also raised the level of expectation from Carolina’s long-suffering support, many of whom wanted Wilks to get the job. Even if the former interim was more than deserving, it does not detract from what a tremendous appointment Reich was.

His decision to keep Campen and Tabor proves it. But there is much more work to do.

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