Panthers’ Frank Reich vows standard of excellence, roster collaboration

For the man who threw the first touchdown pass in team history, new Panthers head coach Frank Reich knows what the “secret sauce” is in Carolina, and it’s not the quarterback.

It’s the Panthers’ defense.

Reich was introduced Tuesday in Charlotte as the team’s new head coach, and while he continues to think about specifics of how it will be done, Reich promised a “standard of excellence” and roster collaboration.

Reich shook hands with current players who were in attendance before taking the stage. Some of his old 1995 teammates came out as well, including Carlton Bailey, Gerald Williams, Pete Metzelaars, Dwight Stone, John Kasay and Mark Rodenhauser.

“The standard is the best,” Reich said in his opening remarks. “That’s what we’re reaching for, nothing but the best. Let’s have a consistency of excellence in everything that we do. … At the top end is championships and the bottom end, we’re a playoff team.”

And unlike the previous tenure of the exiled Matt Rhule, the Panthers’ roster will be a work of collaboration between Reich and general manager Scott Fitterer.

“It’s not a one-man show,” Reich said. “It’s balance of power. Scott will have control of the 53. I’ll have control of who’s active, who’s not active. But, ultimately, that’s on paper. In reality, this is 100 percent collaborative. … We’re gonna tirelessly work where we’re gonna have the same vision.

“We’ll have disagreements. … We’ll have different ideas. But, ultimately, we’ll come together as one and decide who are the best players on this team and how to build this team,” Reich said.

The biggest roster question is at quarterback, where the Panthers cycled through three quarterbacks alone in 2022 — Baker Mayfield (six starts), Sam Darnold (six starts) and PJ Walker (five starts).

“You’ve got to have stability at quarterback,” Reich said. “We’ve learned to adapt, but that’s not the ideal situation.”

Reich added that figuring out the QB position will be priority No. 1 for himself, Fitterer and owner David Tepper.

But Reich knows what he has in his defense.

“I think the defense has been a real strong suit, been a top-level defense,” Reich said. “A top-five defense can elevate you as a team. Not only be in every game but find a way to win every game. We understand we’re in a league that is offensively driven, but kind of the secret sauce is create and build upon the momentum we have here, the players, the roster we have here on defense.”

Reich also said no decision has been made about whether he will call offensive plays. Though he enjoys it, he noted a trend of head coaches moving away from that. He said he wants to fill out his offensive staff before he makes a decision about play-calling.