The Panthers Quietly Made One of the Best Coaching Hires of the Offseason

For all but two teams in the NFL, it’s the offseason. Speculation over Tom Brady’s eventual destination runs amok. Unexpected hires occur seemingly daily. But the very best coaching change so far just might be the Carolina Panthers’ latest understated hire.

LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady has slapped the word “former” in front of that job description. The Panthers tapped him for the job less than 24 hours after he led his Louisiana squad to a National Championship win.

It’s a quick return to the NFL for the former New Orleans Saints offensive assistant — after just one year. The Panthers wasted no time bringing Joe back into the fold. Why the vote of confidence? Let’s look into the masterpiece year that got Joe back to the pros.

How Joe Brady’s latest season with LSU got him into the NFL

LSU, with a largely unchanged core, notably jumped in performance under Joe’s offensive coordination. They went from a 10-3 season last year to a 15-game sweep, including the National Championship, this year. Seven of these wins were against teams ranked in the top 10.

A good portion of this success is undoubtedly due to a breakout season by quarterback Joe Burrow. But Burrow previously languished as a middling QB with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Under Joe Brady’s tailored play-calling style, Burrow emerged as the most likely candidate for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Criticisms of LSU were that they spent too much of the season playing weaker teams, while Clemson had a tougher early schedule. The narrative quickly flipped as LSU rolled through top-ranked teams.

Clemson may have been a slight underdog entering the game. But it was no small feat for LSU’s offense to drastically outpace the previously undefeated quarterback Trevor Lawrence with such aplomb. Finally, the talented sophomore — and likely no. 1 pick for 2021 in his own right — knows what defeat feels like.

Joe Brady’s pre-2019 resume

At just 30 years old, Joe is ready for his second stint in the NFL. His former head coach with the Saints, Sean Payton, expressed some surprise at Brady’s quick success.

“We’re proud of him,” Payton said. “You know, the last thing I told him was, that he was making mistakes. So that shows you how much I know.”

Joe’s 2017-18 run as the Saints’ offensive assistant wasn’t standout. Obviously, he didn’t keep his job there. But applying the principles Joe learned from observing Payton in a situation where he had more personal freedom paid off handsomely.

It’s also not just a matter of Joe being attuned to college football over the NFL. He spent 2015-16 as a graduate assistant at Penn State without much impact. The key factor seems to be that once Joe has the full reins on a team’s offense, he flourishes.

Will Joe Brady’s play-calling transition back to the NFL?

The most crucial tool Joe brought to LSU was developing plays via a complex method. He didn’t choose an offensive plan and stick to pulling from that playbook. Instead, Joe developed plays based on combining the strengths of each player, while avoiding putting anyone in a weak position as often as possible.

His idiosyncratic choices paid off with LSU. They could do the same in the NFL if Joe has a similar latitude to experiment. Simulating blindspots on players’ helmets to prepare them for contested passes in-game? Seems like a bit much, until you remember the offense that trained this way didn’t drop a single game in 2019.

The main problem Joe must address with the Panthers happens to be one that he’s a good fit for. Don’t expect to see players like wide receiver DJ Moore to continue being ignored despite showing clear signs of improvement. That’s why the Panthers may have quietly made the perfect choice for getting team-wide improvement out of a single hire.

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