Coach Frank Reich's seat grows hotter as Panthers drop to 1-10

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper appeared to be in a good mood last Monday as he stood by rookie quarterback Bryce Young dishing out turkey, dressing and all the other Thanksgiving fixings to about 1,300 area kids.

After Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans on the road at Nissan Stadium, the holiday joy was gone from the NFL's fourth-wealthiest owner ($20.6 billion, according to Forbes).

He left the visitors locker room shaking his head in disgust and was heard by multiple reporters yelling "F---!''

That shouldn't come as a surprise. The Panthers have an NFL-worst 1-10 record and are assured of a sixth straight losing season since Tepper purchased the team in 2018 for $2.275 billion. Young, the No. 1 overall of the 2023 draft that Carolina traded two first-round picks and star wide receiver DJ Moore to get, continues to struggle mightily behind an offensive line that is a shambles.

Fans are so disgusted that in two homes games -- Minnesota and Dallas -- fans from the visiting team made Bank of America Stadium look like a home game for them.

Tepper can't like any of this.

Which brings us to the big question: Can Frank Reich survive his first season as Carolina's coach?

He certainly didn't sound like a coach who had any answers on Sunday.

"What are you going to do?'' Reich said. "You are 1-10. Are you going to feel sorry for yourself? Is there something that is going to magically fix everything? No.

"These games are winnable. That message doesn't fly when you are 1-10, but I know these games are winnable.''

But the Panthers aren't winning, because the offense Reich directs scored 15 or fewer points for the fifth straight week and for the seventh time in 11 games. And they're not winning because Young ranks last in the NFL in Total QBR and the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner turns the ball over too much.

His first-half fumble on Sunday at his own 25 set up an easy touchdown by the Titans that turned out to be the difference.

That's not good when the head coach was hired for his offensive expertise.

"The message is we need to do a better job on offense, coaching and playing, as far as protecting the passer,'' Reich said.

Reich is right -- Young needs more protection to operate at a winning level, and the offensive line has failed miserably.

Young now has been sacked 40 times, tied for the fifth most by a player through his first 10 games since sacks were first tracked in 1963.

He was sacked four times Sunday and pressured 14 times, more than any other quarterback in the NFL in Week 12. He was 0-of-8 with all four sacks and two scrambles on those plays, so he hasn't responded well to pressure.

But like all the other postgame speeches, Reich said he had the players to get the job done. He defended Young, saying he made "steps and strides.''

So that's on the coach.

Reich also called the final offensive play when Young checked down to receiver DJ Chark Jr. on a screen that didn't gain a yard on fourth-and-6 from Carolina's own 24.

"It was something we had talked about,'' Reich said. "If they went zero [blitz], if they went all out blitz ... they went zero, so he made the right check. When you hit that play right versus blitz zero and execute it right, it's a touchdown. DJ probably came a little further back than he needed to.''

Young later said the play was on him. Chark said the Titans "didn't go cover zero.'' He also didn't think he went too far back.

"At the end of the day, I just do what I'm told to do and I run the routes I'm told to run,'' Chark said.

Ultimately, all of this falls on Reich, and it's why Tepper left the locker room in a foul mood. He expected more out of Young and Reich, promising fans on draft night that Young would help the Panthers win "Super Bowls.''

Instead, they are as far removed from a Super Bowl as a team can get.

Team history isn't on Reich's side. Carolina has had four coaches -- Dom Capers (4-12 in 1998), George Seifert (1-15 in 2001), John Fox (2-14 in 2010), Matt Rhule (5-12 in 2021) -- lose 12 or more games in a season. Three were fired. The exception was Rhule, and he ended up being fired after starting the next season 1-4. At 1-10, Reich appears headed for 13 or more.

NFL history isn't quite so harsh. Only three of the 10 coaches who won zero or one game in his first season with that team were fired. And only one was fired during the season.

Tepper has given no indication he will make a change before the end of this season, so that could give Reich time.

To be fair, Reich also is frustrated. He just doesn't show it like his boss. His goal is to be the same person on Monday that he has been all the other Mondays.

"The quote-unquote contract at the beginning of the year is every Monday we come in with the same mindset,'' Reich said. "Watch the film, play by play, figure out what we can do better. Win or lose. We are looking more at the corrections that need to be made, more than the good things, because that's how you get better.

"You get frustrated, so sometimes you can get a little heated, but everybody understands that. We all know that frustration.''