Christian McCaffrey 'extremely excited' about Panthers' young coaching staff

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It didn’t take much for Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey to develop a bond with new offensive coordinator Joe Brady.

“I found out he was a fan of ‘The Office,’" said McCaffrey, referring to the TV series set in Scranton, Pennsylvania. “He’s got a fresh [hair] cut. That about sold it for me. I was, ‘I think we’re going to get along just fine.’"

New head coach Matt Rhule, 44, is building a staff that's among the youngest in the league. Brady is set to be the NFL's youngest offensive coordinator at age 30. The general inexperience doesn’t concern McCaffrey.

“You see rookies come into the NFL all the time and have great years and they have zero experience in the NFL," McCaffrey told ESPN.com before leaving for the Super Bowl in Miami, where on Friday he will present two game tickets to Sergeant Major Luis Leiva as part of USAA’s Salute to Service program. “It can be the same with a coach."

Rhule's complete staff hasn’t been announced, but based on names reported, it will be the first year in the league for at least six coaches.

The top three spots definitely rank as the league’s least experienced with Rhule, Brady and defensive coordinator Phil Snow combining for seven years of NFL experience, none as a head coach or coordinator.

Before turning around college programs at Temple and Baylor, Rhule spent a year in the NFL was as an offensive assistant with the New York Giants in 2012. Brady’s only pro experience came as an offensive assistant at New Orleans (2017-18) before helping LSU win the national title this season as the passing game coordinator.

Snow, 64, has four years in the NFL as a defensive assistant/linebackers coach with the Detroit Lions from 2005 to 2008.

Brady said the key for all the staff, regardless of experience, is putting players in the best position for success.

“Regardless of my age, regardless of my experience, if they understand that they are going to want to play for me and respect me, we’re going to have success," said Brady, who helped LSU quarterback Joe Burrow to a record-breaking 2019 season that ranks among the best in college football history.

“The approach you take, it doesn’t matter whether it’s high school or the pros, it’s the manner in which you prepare and approach your day. I might be the offensive coordinator right now, but I still work like I’m a graduate assistant."

McCaffrey, 23, doesn’t believe age or experience will hold any of the new staff members back, particularly Brady.

“He’s had great people to learn from," McCaffrey said, referring to Brady’s time at New Orleans with head coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees. “This league is changing and developing. It needs new minds to figure out different ways to put players in the best position to succeed.

“When you look at the guys that have done that over the last year, he’s at the forefront of it."

Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian said the inexperience could be a factor for the head coach and coordinators only if they hadn’t spent at least one year with an NFL team.

They all have.

“It’s much harder to come in directly from college without having been in an NFL building, experienced an NFL building, worked with NFL players," Polian said. “If you have that experience, I hate to use the word culture, but if you understand the work environment, it won’t be a problem."

Adaptability also is key. McCaffrey has observed that with Brady.

“He’s able to utilize not just me, but everybody," he said. “And put everybody in a position they can best help the team win. That’s something that’s not easy to do. It’s not one system. It’s a constant changing.

“You look at what he did with the LSU program this year, possibly the greatest college team of all times. It was fun to watch as an outsider before I knew he was our coach. Now that I know he is [the Panthers' coach], I’m extremely excited."