Panthers coach Matt Rhule finally found his next offensive coordinator.
Carolina will hire former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo as its offensive coordinator after they reach a contract agreement, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
McAdoo, 44, spent three years out of the NFL following his four-year stint with the New York Giants. He served as the Giants’ head coach from 2016-2017 before being fired after a 2-10 start late into his second season.
Equipped with quarterback Eli Manning and a young Odell Beckham Jr., McAdoo called plays for the Giants offense in 2014 and 2015, leading to two explosive seasons for Beckham Jr. OBJ won Rookie of the Year in 2014, averaging a league-high 108 receiving yards per game.
His relationship with Manning helped him land the Giants’ head coaching job after Tom Coughlin retired in 2015. The Giants finished the 2016 regular season with an 11-5 record, second in the NFC East. New York made the playoffs, losing to Green Bay during the wild-card round. It’s the last time the Giants reached the postseason. New York was 8-3 in one-score games that season and was the second-least penalized team in the league.
McAdoo served as an offensive consultant this season for the league’s No. 1 offense in Dallas. Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy is considered McAdoo’s mentor. He was Aaron Rodgers’ quarterback coach from 2012-13 when McCarthy was the Packers head coach.
The Panthers think McAdoo will improve their dormant passing offense based on his time with Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers. Most importantly to Rhule, McAdoo brings NFL play-calling experience to Carolina, something former offensive coordinator Joe Brady and interim play-caller Jeff Nixon did not have before Rhule elevated them.
Do not expect McAdoo to be tied to any one specific system. Instead, the team believes his diverse background with multiple passing schemes and preferred personnel packages will prove advantageous as McAdoo adapts to the roster.
Rhule spent the past few weeks interviewing a wide range of potential hires. On Thursday, former Washington head coach Jay Gruden interviewed with Rhule for a second time. Colts running back coach Scottie Montgomery also interviewed twice. Both second meetings took place in person, according to a league source.
Carolina also interviewed Vikings offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak, former Texans OC Tim Kelly, Packers quarterback coach Luke Getsy and Colts wide receiver coach Mike Groh.
The Panthers’ offense will be completely rebuilt under McAdoo after a turbulent 1 1/2 seasons under Brady and Nixon.
Rhule fired Brady following the Panthers’ Week 13 bye. Through 12 games, Brady’s offense ranked 28th in total offense, passing offense and 23rd in points per game while Carolina lost seven of its last nine games.
In three of those contests (Giants, New England, Miami), the Panthers did not score an offensive touchdown. The Panthers were one of the worst third-quarter scoring teams as well, stats that did not improve after Brady’s departure.
Problems from Brady’s first season carried over into his second year. The Panthers were inconsistent situationally, struggling in critical red-zone and third-down moments. When Rhule fired Brady, the Panthers were 22nd in red-zone touchdown percentage. They finished 25th with a 53% conversion percentage.
Brady arrived in Charlotte after Rhule hired him from LSU in January of 2020. Brady helped the Tigers win a national championship with quarterback Joe Burrow. Though he didn’t call all the plays at LSU, Brady called some red-zone and third-down plays while working closely with Burrow on the sidelines.
He quickly became regarded as one of the best young coordinators in football. In his first year in Carolina, the Panthers signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who had spent a year in New Orleans when Brady was an assistant to coach Sean Payton.
Brady orchestrated an offense that produced four 1,000-yard performers in DJ Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel and running back Mike Davis. Despite some individual success, Carolina finished 24th in scoring offense and 21st in total offense playing just three games with All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey missed 10 games this season, serving two separate stints on the injured reserve list.
After Brady’s departure, Rhule pointed to the Panthers’ more focused running offense (measured by total rushing attempts) and improved third-quarter scoring for evidence Nixon belonged.
Those trends did not consistently materialize through Nixon’s five-game tryout. The Panthers’ offense regressed in their final five games. They scored five fewer points per game, averaged about 40 fewer yards and allowed almost two more sacks per game. Nixon taking over wasn’t going to save the Panthers’ offense. They were still running Brady’s offense with a quarterback in Cam Newton who did not have time to master the system.
Now it’s on Rhule and McAdoo to revamp a Carolina offense desperate to pull itself out of the gutter of offensive football. There is plenty for the front office to address. GM Scott Fitterer will spend the next few months finding offensive line talent via free agency and the draft. Carolina will aggressively survey the quarterback market.
Whether McAdoo starts Sam Darnold or someone else, look for him to install a quarterback-friendly system and appease Rhule by running the ball more effectively.
With McAdoo set to join the Panthers, Rhule will turn his attention to hiring a special teams coordinator and filling the vacant offensive and defensive line coaching positions soon.
This story is developing and will be updated.
The Observer’s Jonathan M. Alexander contributed to this story.