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Shocking news broke Sunday that the Carolina Panthers and head coach Matt Rhule fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady. When the Panthers brought Brady to the NFL from LSU less than two years ago, it was a major coup. Now, just 28 games later, the future is uncertain for both the incredibly young former OC and the Panthers organization.  

The Carolina Panthers fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady after just 28 games

In 2018, Joe Burrow was just a former Ohio State prospect who couldn’t beat out Dwayne Haskins, so he transferred to LSU. In 2020, he was a record-breaking, Heisman Trophy-winning, national championship-winning, No. 1 overall draft pick, and savior of the moribund Cincinnati Bengals franchise.

Key to this transformation was now-32-year-old offensive guru Joe Brady.

Brady’s rise from FCS wide receiver at William & Mary to offensive coordinator of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers was meteoric.

After graduating from the Virginia school, Brady spent two seasons apiece at his alma mater (linebackers coach), Penn State (grad assistant), and the New Orleans Saints (offensive assistant). He then did a year at LSU as the passing game coordinator and receivers coach, per  

Brady’s time in Baton Rouge is most notable for his work developing Burrow and winning the national title.

Without Brady, Burrow passed for 2,894 yards and 16 touchdowns his junior season. With Brady, he threw for 5,671 yards and 60 touchdowns on his way to picking up the 2019 Heisman Trophy during his senior year.

The 2019 season got the then-30-year-old Brady a job as offensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers under former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule.

NFL insider Ian Rapoport says there were ‘warning signs’ that Brady was failing

Joe Brady’s incredible track record of swift success came to an end in Carolina.

The 2020 Carolina Panthers finished the season 5-11 with the No. 24 scoring offense in the NFL. Following QB Teddy Bridgewater’s departure in the offseason, the signal-caller openly criticized the young OC’s practice plan, per

This season, Brady failed to help 2018 No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold or 2011 No. 1 overall pick Cam Newton become productive NFL QBs and, his offense is once again 24th in the league in points scored.

NFL insider Ian Rapoport cited these issues as the “warning signs” that came ahead of Brady’s shocking firing on Sunday:

There were some warning signs here. I’ll give you a couple examples. First of all, last year Teddy Bridgewater came to the Panthers. It did not work out, never really found his groove, and then ended up criticizing the offense and the offensive game plan in the offseason after he was traded. Meanwhile, Bridgewater has been a legitimate starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos, and the Panthers have had to search for another one. Sam Darnold, who everyone hoped would take the next step, obviously, it did not happen thanks, in part, to some injuries. Cam Newton, and now, it’s just on and on issues with the offense. Brady was gone at the end of the year regardless. They actually thought he may end up taking a college job somewhere. It did not happen, with a lot of the big college jobs filled. Now [Matt] Rhule decides to fire Joe Brady.

Ian Rapoport on Joe Brady

While Brady’s NFL future is now uncertain, based on his success at LSU, he should easily be able to get a college OC job and maybe even a head job at that level.

The Panthers now have five games to turn their season into a success or a failure.

The Panthers try to salvage the 2021 season in Week 14 vs. the Atlanta Falcons

Offensive Coordinator Joe Brady Carolina Panthers takes the field before the game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 28, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Joe Brady | Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images.

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Despite the drama surrounding Joe Brady, his firing, and the frustrating QB situation in Carolina, the team enters the final stretch of the season just a game out of the last two playoff spots in the NFC.

The team and its offense now face the division-rival Atlanta Falcons under the tutelage of running backs coach Jeff Nelson.

The 47-year-old Nelson was the assistant offensive coordinator under Matt Rhule at Baylor in 2019. That season the Bears went 11-3, which propelled Rhule to the NFL.

The new Nelson-led offense gets off to a cushy start against the 5-7 Falcons, who feature the No. 31 ranked scoring defense in the league. However, the Panthers face a gauntlet in the final four games after that.

Carolina ends its seasons against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills, New Orleans Saints, and Bucs again.

If Nelson’s offense can find a way to reach new heights, the Panthers still have a legitimate shot at the playoffs, being just behind the 6-6 Washington Football Team and San Francisco 49ers for the No. 6 and No. 7 playoff spots in the NFC.

If it can’t, the Panthers could end up with a top 10 pick in the 2022 NFL draft.

Unfortunately for Rhule, Nelson, and the Panthers, even this lofty draft slot might not cure their QB woes. This upcoming draft does not feature the high-end signal-caller talent the previous few drafts have.

That said, the pick could still help bring in a QB upgrade.

Owner and billionaire investor David Tepper is known for taking big swings. The Panthers could also leverage the pick to entice a team to send an unhappy veteran QB to Charlotte.

All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and Sports Reference