Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan has been quite busy since the end of the regular season.
Of the eight available spots that have become open so far, he has interviewed for half. That isn’t bad considering the New England Patriots and Las Vegas Raiders seemed to have planned or have a plan for who their next head coach will be with Jerrod Mayo taking over in New England and Antonio Pierce having a very successful run as the interim head coach in Las Vegas.
As it stands now, though, ESPN insider Dan Graziano is making some predictions after the initial wave of interviews has transpired. Here is his prediction for where Callahan ends up:
Industry insiders are finding this a tough one to call, since there’s skepticism about the willingness of candidates to work for impatient team owner David Tepper. I expect this hire to be an offensive-minded coach whose task will be getting the most out of 2023 top pick Bryce Young, who struggled in Year 1 with a 33.4 QBR (29th in the NFL). It has been thought for a while that Johnson — who has been Joe Burrow’s coordinator in Cincinnati for the quarterback’s entire career — is Carolina’s top choice, but he could have better offers.
Slowik is a hot name with several interviews lined up, but he has also been a coordinator for only one year, and some teams may prefer more experience. Callahan hasn’t been the playcaller in Cincinnati, but he has a lot of responsibility in the offense and has been instrumental in the Bengals’ success in recent years. And he has the experience that Tepper could be looking for this offseason. The work Callahan did with Jake Browning this season after Burrow’s season-ending right wrist injury has caught teams’ attention.
The Panthers have to be one of the least attractive jobs currently on the market, with the only real qualifier being how the coach views Bryce Young. Many have already written off the first overall selection after a rough rookie season, but looking at the situation, it is hard to imagine many young quarterbacks stepping in to anything close to that and looking somewhat successful.
Callahan has been a part of building a drastic offensive overhaul in Cincinnati. He went from turning a closed-window-era offense of Andy Dalton and AJ Green offense into a championship-caliber one with Burrow, Ja’Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins.
You may say it is easy to see that now, but don’t forget how much criticism the Bengals received for the Chase selection at the time. The only problem, the top offensive threat at the skill position for Young to throw to is probably Adam Thielen, who would be 34 years old by the time 2024 starts up. He had 103 receptions last season. The next highest was Jonathan Mingo with 43 and then running back Chubba Hubbard (the only player to top 1,100 total yards).
There is no doubt this team needs a pretty heavy overhaul. Most of this will probably have to happen with some major money being moved as Carolina would have the first overall selection, but they sent it to the Chicago Bear last year as part of the trade to get Young that season with the first overall selection.
More so, they need a culture change. The Panthers have struggled since losing the Super Bowl in the 2015 season. Their last winning season was 2017 when they lost in the Wild Card round. It also is harder for a team to attract a head coach after the previous one had just been hired and then fired during his first season.
The pipeline of Bengals to Panthers has been somewhat established recently. They went out and got offensive guard Michael Jordan (no longer with the team), tight end Hayden Hurst, and safety Vonn Bell. So Callahan would have a guy on both sides of the ball who could personally vouch for the coach from a player's perspective. It also shows they believe in what the Bengals were doing in their turnaround, and they were willing to get a couple of them into their own locker room.
It seems almost like a certain thing that Callahan will receive a shot as a head coach, but it may come down to whether he wants to settle for Carolina or hope a better job comes calling. He certainly seems like a guy who could help turn around the Panthers if he is given more than 11 games to do so.