Does Brandon Staley's firing complicate Carolina Panthers coaching search?

Another top opening has come to light in recent days.

Brandon Staley
Brandon Staley / Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
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Does Brandon Staley's firing complicate the Carolina Panthers' chances of landing their preferred head coaching candidate in 2024?

The Carolina Panthers got a head start on their head coaching search by firing Frank Reich after an abysmal opening to the campaign. While it's not the most stable organization under David Tepper's leadership, it could be somewhat attractive when one considers the presence of rookie quarterback Bryce Young and a defense with core pieces at all three levels.

Tepper is a lingering problem and might put off some candidates when it's all said and done. Brandon Staley being fired by the Los Angeles Chargers could also complicate matters in pursuit of finding their preferred target of choice.

The Chargers have a genuine franchise quarterback in Justin Herbert. They have veteran difference-makers everywhere you look. They also have their first-round pick to further entice a head coach capable of turning this perennial underachiever around.

Carolina Panthers face strong competition for preferred coach

One could make a case for the Chargers being more alluring than the Panthers despite their concerning salary-cap situation. The Las Vegas Raiders are another team looking for a new head coach. Many more are expected to follow on Black Monday once the regular season concludes.

This gives the Panthers a problem if they want to convince a man who's emerged as the leading contender. Ben Johnson is the hot name among Carolina circles about potentially being the guy. He turned down the opportunity last season but might be willing to consider a homecoming this time around.

A recent report from Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports hinted that Tepper's already begun to put in the groundwork in his quest to land Johnson. The insider revealed that the billionaire and the offensive coordinator's agent spent plenty of time together at the NFL owners' meetings. Something that sent excitement across the fanbase on social media.

"Carolina owner David Tepper has said he wants his next coach to be there for the next 20 to 30 years, so that alone would eliminate the 71-year-old [Bill] Belichick. Tepper is expected to make another run at Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson, and the billionaire spent a good amount of time with Johnson's agent at this week's league meetings."

Jonathan Jones, CBS Sports

If the Chargers also came calling for Johnson, he'd be foolish not to consider the possibility. The same goes for the Washington Commanders once former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is relieved of his duties.

Washington has a wealth of draft capital. They could have around $100 million in salary-cap space to spend. They might even have their franchise quarterback if Sam Howell finishes the season strongly. It's a big market and a sleeping giant ready to be awoken with Dan Snyder out of the picture.

Tepper cannot afford to be on the back foot. He must identify his No. 1 hire. He must be decisive. He must strike with conviction. Otherwise, the Panthers will once again be settling rather than pulling off a coup.

Of course, there's also the other elephant in the room. General manager Scott Fitterer's future is coming in for increased speculation after a series of roster moves failed to reap rewards. If Tepper pulls the plug, then much will depend on what candidate the new front-office leader wants to take the Panthers forward.

Things should happen quite quickly in the New Year. Everyone saw Staley's firing coming but the coach himself. Whether it hinders Caroina's chances of landing Johnson when push comes to shove has yet to be determined.

Tepper's got deep pockets, but he'll need to make some concessions. Specifically, meddling less in the football operations and letting the people he pays handsomely mold a long-term force rather than constantly pandering to his ego.

He's got to get this right. If that means Tepper has to swallow some pride, it's a small price to pay.

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