Panthers to hire Buccaneers’ Dave Canales as head coach


CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers have agreed to hire Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dave Canales as their new head coach, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Canales has informed the Buccaneers that he is taking the job, although there are still details that need to be finalized before the move is announced, according to the people who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity.

Canales will be the seventh head coach since owner David Tepper took over as owner in 2018. He inherits a Panthers team that went 2-15 last season and does not have a first-round draft pick in 2024.

Canales, who is Mexican-American, joins Ron Rivera as the second head coach of Latino descent hired by the Panthers.

He will be the third minority hire during this coaching cycle, joining Jerod Mayo in New England and Antonio Pierce in Las Vegas, bringing the NFL total to eight along with Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Houston’s DeMeco Ryans, Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles, Miami’s Mike McDaniel and the New York Jets’ Robert Saleh.

Three teams still have yet to hire a head coach: the Falcons, Seahawks and Commanders.

The hire caps a meteoric rise for the 42-year-old Canales, who was working as the Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach in 2022.

He spent 13 seasons in Seattle where he worked with Dan Morgan, who was recently hired as the Panthers general manager and president of football operations. Morgan replaced general manager Scott Fitterer, who was fired after the season.

Canales broke into league in 2010 as the Seahawks wide receivers coach, where he spent eight seasons and helped the team win a Super Bowl in the 2013 season. He spent three more seasons as the team’s quarterbacks coach working with Russell Wilson and two as passing game coordinator before the landing the Buccaneers job last year.

Canales helped the Bucs reach the NFC divisional playoffs with Baker Mayfield at quarterback in his first and only season as an NFL offensive coordinator.

Canales will be entrusted with the development of quarterback Bryce Young, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft who struggled as a rookie. Young went 2-14 as a starter and averaged fewer than 180 yards passing per game and had just 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

Canales’ development of Mayfield may have left a lasing impression on Tepper. The 2018 No. 1 overall pick had struggled last season with the Panthers and was released late in the 2022 season.

But under Canales, he resurrected his career in Tampa Bay.

Mayfield completed 64.3% of his passes for 4,044 yards with 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season for the Bucs, who went 9-8 and won the NFC South in the final week of the regular season. Mayfield played well in the postseason as well as the Bucs beat the Philadelphia Eagles 32-9 before losing last week to the Detroit Lions 31-23.

Mayfield completed 62.3% of his passes in the postseason for 686 yards with six TD passes and two interceptions.

Wilson had his best statistical season in 2020 with Canales as the passing game coordinator, throwing for 4,212 yards and 40 touchdowns with 13 interceptions. And Geno Smith posted his best season in 2022 with Canales as QBs coach, throwing for 4,282 yards with 30 TD passes and 11 picks.

The big question might be how much patience Tepper will have with Canales.

The Panthers fired Frank Reich just 11 games into his first season as head coach this season after giving him a four-year contract. Tepper, who is 31-68 since taking over, hasn’t shown much patience with head coaches, also having fired Ron Rivera and Matt Rhule during the middle of previous seasons.

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