In January of 2023, Carolina hired former Colts head coach Frank Reich ending a coaching search that primarily saw ownership interview offensive candidates. Former Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey, then interim head coach Steve Wilks, former Lions head coach Jim Caldwell and now Colts head coach Shane Steichen were among those interviewed.
Who might Carolina interview and target in this coaching search?
1. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson
Johnson, 37, interviewed with Carolina during the last coaching search. His NFL career spans 12 seasons with two franchises: the Dolphins and Lions. After an impressive 2022 campaign that coincided with elevated play from quarterback Jared Goff, Johnson burst onto the radar. His resume has only grown stronger this season as the Lions offense has dragged the franchise to an 8-3 record. His work with Goff will not go unnoticed as the Panthers work to identify a candidate capable of getting the best out of No. 1 overall selection Bryce Young.
2. Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron
Waldron, 44, is in his third season as offensive coordinator of the Seahawks after serving as Sean McVay's passing game coordinator for three seasons. His career includes two Super Bowl championships as a member of the Patriots. Seattle quarterback Geno Smith famously said "they wrote me off, I ain't write back" and Waldron is the architect of the offense that has re-invigorated the former second-round pick. He is a forward-thinking coach with innovative play designs.
3. Texans offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik
There is nothing more trendy in NFL circles than coaches with a background working under 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan or McVay. Slowik, 36, was on the now infamous Washington coaching staff that included Packers head coach Matt LaFleur, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel, former Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris, McVay and Shanahan. In addition to his impressive connections, Slowik has brought energy to a Texans offensive unit that has surprised everyone in the NFL. His work with C.J. Stroud is a feather in his cap as he enters the interview process.
4. Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald
Macdonald spent seven seasons coaching in the Baltimore organization before Jim Harbaugh hired him as Michigan's defensive coordinator in 2021. The 36-year-old proved himself in that lone season with the Wolverines. His work in Ann Arbor led to John Harbaugh bringing him home to the Ravens. Following the 2021 season, Baltimore made the decision to move on from long-time defensive coordinator Wink Martindale and Macdonald took over in 2022. The Baltimore defense has not skipped a beat and adoration for Macdonald has spread.
According to FTNFantasy, the Ravens are second in defensive DVOA, which measures efficiency and overall success.
5. Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo
Most believe that Mayo, 37, has been given assurances that he will take over for Bill Belichick when the time comes. After eight seasons playing under Belichick, Mayo was hired as inside linebackers coach in 2019. The Virginia native is a Super Bowl champion known for instilling grit and toughness into his unit.
There has to be concern about hiring a Belichick disciple because that has rarely worked, but Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is the exception.
6. Chargers offensive coordinator Kellen Moore
Moore, 35, was interviewed as part of Carolina's search a year ago. His six year playing career took him to Detroit and Dallas. Jerry Jones hired him as quarterbacks coach in 2018. The following year, he was named offensive coordinator. After four seasons in that role, the team elected to make a move and the Chargers hired him in the same role. Los Angeles is eighth in offensive DVOA, according to FTNFantasy. They finished 15th the prior season.
7. Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka
Kafka, 36, had also been interviewed by the Panthers last year. Some of the shine has been removed this season as a result of New York's offensive struggles. His work with Daniel Jones in Year 1 was widely praised. Kafka has been coaching in the league for seven years. His first five years were spent in Kansas City learning from head coach Andy Reid, who was also his head coach in Philadelphia when the Eagles selected the Northwestern quarterback in the fourth-round of the 2010 NFL Draft.