Now that Dan Morgan has been named the Panthers General Manager, who will be the next head coach?

By Zach Goins

January 23, 2024

Photo: Brian Westerholt / AP

The Carolina Panthers made the first steps towards a new era of football naming former linebacker Dan Morgan the franchise’s new president of football operations and general manager.

Morgan, Carolina’s first-round draft pick in 2001, played middle linebacker for the Panthers for seven seasons, but has spent the last decade and a half climbing the ladder in various front offices around the league. Morgan spent seven years with the Seahawks, rising from the ranks of a scouting intern to eventually serving as the team’s director of pro personnel, before moving to the Bills as the team’s director of player personnel for three years. Most recently, Morgan served as the Panthers assistant general manager working closely with former GM Scott Fitterer.


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“Dan has a thorough knowledge of our football personnel and a clear vision to take us where we all want to go,” Panthers owner David Tepper said in a statement. “We know he will attack this opportunity with the same intensity he did as a Panthers player.”

Hiring Morgan marks the first step in the Panthers’ hopeful ascension from the NFL’s bottom, but for the third time in as many years, the team is searching for a new head coach.

After hiring Frank Reich to lead the team in January of 2023, Tepper then made the decision to fire Reich following Week 12 of the NFL season after the Panthers started the season with a league-worst 1-10 record. 


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Carolina finished the season at 2-15 (the worst record in the NFL) with former special teams coordinator Chris Tabor serving as the team’s interim head coach. Shortly after the regular season’s end, Tepper also ousted Fitterer, who had been with the organization since 2021. 

Morgan’s hiring is an interesting choice for the franchise, considering he has played a role in the team’s less-than-stellar last three seasons under Fitterer, also working closely with him during their time together in Seattle. It’s safe to say the duo wasn’t able to replicate the success they had with the Seahawks in Charlotte, but the Panthers hope is that Morgan’s track record alongside Bills GM Brandon Beane in Buffalo has prepared him to lead Carolina in the right direction.

With a new GM in the building, the next step is finding a head coach.

The interview process is well underway, as Carolina has already interviewed several potential new head coaches, with a handful of candidates separating themselves as possible fits to help lead the Panthers into a new era. While legendary former head coaches like Bill Belichick and Pete Carroll are on the market, as well as former Titans head coach Mike Vrabel and newly-crowned collegiate national champion and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Panthers have not opted to interview any of them, instead focusing on coordinators in the NFL. 

Reich’s hire marked the first “offensive-minded” head coach in Panthers history– which didn’t turn out well for anyone involved– but considering priority number one is still developing 2023 first-round pick Bryce Young at quarterback, it’s likely Tepper and company will once again turn to the offensive side of the ball. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most promising candidates.

Ben Johnson

Currently: Detroit Lions Offensive Coordinator

Interviewed with the Panthers? Yes

Johnson is arguably the hottest commodity on the 2024 coaching carousel, thanks to the magic he’s worked in Detroit the last two seasons. In just five years, Johnson has climbed the ranks from an offensive quality control coach to calling the shots for one of the NFL’s best offenses. In his two years as offensive coordinator, Johnson has revitalized Jared Goff’s career, leading the quarterback to the best completion percentage of his career in 2023, as well his most touchdown passes since 2018. Johnson’s first year at the helm (2022) marked the first time in Lions history that the offense accumulated 4,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in the same season – and the team did it again in 2023.

The results made Johnson a favorite candidate in last year’s head coaching search, even interviewing with the Panthers before returning to the Lions for a shot at the Super Bowl. But after another stellar season in Detroit, Johnson’s stock couldn’t be higher, and Carolina may have an advantage when it comes to recruiting their potential new head coach. Johnson was born in Charleston, South Carolina, went to high school in Asheville, and was a walk-on quarterback for the University of North Carolina, making the Panthers job an ideal homecoming for the Carolina kid.


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Bobby Slowik

Currently: Houston Texans Offensive Coordinator

Interviewed with the Panthers? Yes

The 2023 Houston Texans are everything the Panthers wish they could have been last year. With a rookie quarterback, a new head coach, an AFC South title, and a run all the way to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. While Houston may have been one of the Panthers two wins last year, you’d be hard pressed to find any fans who wouldn’t gladly switch spots with the Texans– or at least take their offensive coordinator.

Slowik unlocked rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud’s full potential, helping the No. 2 overall pick lead the league in passing yards per game and cement himself as the favorite to win Offensive Rookie of the Year. In just one year under Slowik, the Texans’ offense improved from 31st in the league to finish 12th this season, with much of the credit going to Slowik’s West Coast scheme. But Slowik didn’t just get lucky by having the No. 2 pick under center– prior to Houston, Slowik was the passing game coordinator for the 49ers, where he helped turn the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft Brock Purdy into a starting quarterback for one of the league’s best teams.

The only question now is would Slowik want to abandon what he’s building in Houston so quickly for such an uncertain situation in Carolina?

Frank Smith

Currently: Miami Dolphins Offensive Coordinator

Interviewed with the Panthers? Yes

When you look at the Panthers offense and the Dolphins offense, there’s not much the two units have in common. But under center, both teams have a national champion quarterback from the University of Alabama with a smaller frame. Could Frank Smith help Bryce Young reach Tua Tagovailoa levels of success?

Smith has spent the last two seasons in Miami, helping the Dolphins finish first in the league in yards per game this year, with a staggering 401.3 yard average. However, there should be an asterisk beside Smith’s role as offensive coordinator, considering Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel calls the plays in Miami. But Smith could certainly still be a valuable asset, despite never having called plays at the NFL level.

Prior to the Dolphins, Smith bounced around the league spending time with the Saints, Bears, Raiders, and Chargers. 


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Raheem Morris

Currently: Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator

Interviewed with the Panthers? Yes

Given the Panthers desperate need to develop quarterback Bryce Young and find success on offense, opting for a head coach with a defensive background seems less likely, but Morris still puts together a compelling case. 

The Panthers may not have much of an identity at the moment, but historically, the team’s foundation has been based on an aggressive and hard-hitting defense. Sounds like the perfect fit for Morris, the only candidate on this list with head coaching experience. Morris served as the Buccaneers head coach from 2009 to 2011, and has also been interim head coach for the Falcons in 2020. Most recently though, Morris is a Super Bowl-winning defensive coordinator for the Rams. 

Morris has been in the league for 21 years with four different teams, coaching on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. In the NFL, experience means a lot, and that resume likely gives Morris a leg up on the younger, less experienced candidates in consideration. Another perk of hiring a coach with Morris’s pedigree is the amount of trust and respect that comes along with him. Suddenly, the unattractive qualities about coming to Carolina (like the roster and ownership) are made more appealing to future assistant coaches and veteran players if they know Morris is willing to vouch for the team. For what it’s worth, Morris is also one of the first candidates to receive a second interview with the Panthers.

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