New Carolina Panthers coach Frank Reich aims to find more stability at the quarterback position than during his stint in Indianapolis, where the Colts churned through seven starters in fewer than five seasons.
"You got to have stability at quarterback," Reich said Tuesday during his introductory press conference. "You know, you want to have stability at quarterback, so the good thing that I've learned in my past experience here, in the past experience in the few years, is we've learned how to adapt different to styles of quarterbacks, but that's not the ideal situation, right? So, we, Mr. (David) Tepper, Scott (Fitterer), and myself, have to commit to what's our blueprint? How are we going to maintain stability at quarterback? Make a plan and then execute that plan."
With a good defense and solid weapons on offense, the struggles at quarterback are what ultimately sunk the Matt Rhule regime.
While Reich declined to state his preference for a veteran signal-caller versus a first-round rookie, the fact that Matt Corral and Jacob Eason are the only QBs currently under contract makes it a focal point this offseason for Fitterer and Reich. Might they chase the likes of a Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo? Is using the No. 9 overall pick on a QB the best bet for long-term success?
Later, Fitterer noted he hasn't started evaluating the quarterbacks but leans toward the draft option.
"I don't think you ever want to box yourself in and say we're going to strictly draft," the GM told reporters. "I've always kind of said that's the proper way to do it. To draft and develop from a cost-effective standpoint. But if we don't believe that guy is there this year -- and we haven't even started that process, our scouts have. We'll look at all options. But in an ideal world, we'd be draft and develop."
Reich acknowledged that every quarterback must, at some point, win from the pocket but sounded as if he'd like to run an offense that includes a dual-threat option.
"We all know the way the game's going, right?" he said. "We all know the game is going to a more movement-style quarterback. I embrace that. I love that. We worked with some in Philadelphia, worked with Carson Wentz, and we did a lot of good things with movement, RPOs, play-action, all that stuff. Same thing in the years in Indy. We had some dropback, some movement guys. Ultimately, we can adapt to whatever, but where the game is going, most of the guys coming out in college have more movement, right? That has some advantages."
While the quarterback situation sorts itself out, Reich plans to build his offense from the ground up.
"It's a passing league, but you have to run the ball to be a championship team," he said. "There's exceptions to that, but when you look at the analytics, the statistics over the years, you have to be effective and efficient running the football. That's one of the reasons why I'm excited about this roster -- I know we can do that. We will get the pass game right, but I know we can run the football and we're gonna run the football because that just builds off the play action, off the RPO stuff, all the movement stuff. That's what you want to build."
Reich's plan sounds clear for Jan. 31: Establish the run, then beat the defenses vertically.
"It's hard to go 14-play drives all the time," he said. "You've got to get chunk plays down the field. So we need to be able to run the ball, have play-action so we can get it vertical, and have the kind of players and quarterback that can do that."
The 61-year-old coach had a similar approach in Indianapolis, but the QB carousel sapped some of the potential. And Reich admitted the ground game cratered in 2022, leading to their struggles before his dismissal.
"In four years, it was established that that team, we were running the ball well," he said of his time in Indy. "Well, like we're going to do here, and then as this year started out, the running game disappeared, and then we didn't get the ball vertically down the field a lot because of that, and we ended up having some breakdowns. Now, and that's on me as a head coach. I need to get that right. The responsibility starts with me, right? So, when we don't reach our goals, it's under my leadership, and that's why I have an opportunity to be here."
Now, Reich is on to new goals with a new team in Carolina.