How Do First-Year Carolina Panthers Coaches Traditionally Perform?

How Do First-Year Carolina Panthers Coaches Traditionally Perform?
Fact Checked by Michael Peters

It's a new era for the Carolina Panthers with the hiring of Frank Reich as head coach. Reich, who went 40-33-1 over four-plus seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, got the job over popular interim option Steve Wilks. 

Wilks, also a prior NFL head coach with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, went a respectable 6-6 after the firing of Matt Rhule, but that wasn't enough to convince owner David Tepper to commit to him long term. 

Enter Reich, the sixth full-time Panthers coach, who takes over a 7-10 team. 

With Reich likely being the Panthers coach by the time we finally get legalized North Carolina sports betting, BetCarolina dove into the history books to see how each Panthers coach performed in their first season, a history that includes some highs and lows. 

Panthers Coaches' Record In 1st Season With Team

🏈 Dom Capers7-9
🏈 George Seifert8-8
🏈 John Fox7-9
🏈 Ron Rivera6-10
🏈 Matt Rhule5-11

Can Reich Set The New High Water Mark?

As seen above, no Panthers coach has posted a winning record in their first season. However, context matters in several instances here. 

Capers' Expansion Season

While the 1995 Carolina Panthers fell short of the playoffs under coach Dom Capers, that team's 7-9 mark remains the best record for an expansion team since the NFL's inception. 

And talk about things coming full circle. Capers' Week 1 starter under center that year? Reich. 

Capers in his second season would help guide the Panthers to a 12-4 mark and an eventual NFC Championship Game loss to the Green Bay Packers.

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Enter George Seifert

After Capers was dismissed following a 4-12 effort in 1998, the Panthers took a big swing with Super Bowl-winning coach George Seifert. Seifert had a nice first season in Charlotte, with the team improving by four wins to go 8-8. 

Unfortunately for Seifert, the bottom fell out two years later, with the Panthers stumbling to 1-15 and sending the longtime 49ers coach into retirement. 

The John Fox Turnaround

Like Capers' 1995 season, John Fox leading the Panthers to a 7-9 mark in his first season was a lot better than the record indicates. Fox improved the Panthers by 6 wins in 2002, and the very next season led the Panthers to the Super Bowl, where they fell to Tom Brady and the Patriots. 

Ron Rivera's Slow Build

After nine years of John Fox, change came in the form of Ron Rivera in 2011. Rivera's tenure got off to a slower start than Fox, Seifert and Capers, and after posting 6-10 and 7-9 marks in his first two seasons, his seat was extremely warm after a 1-3 start to the 2013 season. 

But Rivera turned things around drastically to go 12-4 that year, then remained in Carolina for another six seasons before being dismissed by Tepper in 2019. 

Ironically after posting the worst first season record of a Panthers coach to date, Rivera went on to become the franchise's all-time wins leader with a 79-67-1 mark, just ahead of Fox' 78-74 record.

The Matt Rhule Era

Optimism was high for Matt Rhule when he arrived from Baylor in 2020. But the dubbed "turnaround king" failed to do just that in Carolina, going 5-11 in Year 1, the same number of wins Rivera was fired with mid-season the year before. 

Rhule would later be dismissed early in the 2022 season, having never posted more than five wins in one season in Carolina.

Can Reich Buck The Trend?

While the past performances of Panthers coaches in their first season isn't overwhelmingly positive, Reich has a decent chance to be the first to post a winning record. 

The Panthers boasted a strong defense and running game in 2022, with musical chairs at quarterback and the Rhule factor very much holding the team back in the first half of the season. 

Should Reich be gifted a first round quarterback in the draft, or a capable veteran like Derek Carr or Jimmy Garoppolo in free agency, it's easy to see the Panthers again contending in a weak NFC South that just lost Tom Brady to retirement. 

And hey, it's never too early to take a peak at Super Bowl futures. But operators like DraftKings Sportsbook North Carolina are taking the wait and see approach with Reich's Panthers, who currently sit at +5500 to win Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.

Once North Carolina does move towards legalized betting, BetCarolina will be your home for NC sportsbook promo codes.



Thomas Leary is an editor and writer for, with a focus on the Panthers, Hornets and college sports. He previously worked at Sports Business Journal.

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