How does the Panthers’ hiring of Frank Reich affect the Falcons?

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There’s a new face in the NFC South — Frank Reich — as the Panthers finalized the hire of the former Colts head coach on Thursday. Despite just two full seasons under his belt, Arthur Smith is the longest-tenured head coach in the division. The Falcons are primed to potentially take over the NFC South as well.

The Saints have no draft capital, no quarterback, a mess of a salary cap, and a lackluster head coach. The Buccaneers are old, over-extended financially, and will likely lose Tom Brady this offseason. The only team with as bright of a future as the Falcons is the Panthers.

Despite being fired by the Colts, Reich compiled a 40-33-1 record over five seasons in Indianapolis, reaching the postseason twice. However, he’s done much of that with tumultuous quarterback play. Outside of the 2018 season with Andrew Luck, Reich dealt with a revolving door at the position.

Many remember his impact with the Super Bowl champion Eagles, helping guide backup quarterback Nick Foles as Philadephia’s offensive coordinator. If I were a Panthers fan, I would absolutely love the hire. Carolina has a very good defense, with All-Pro talent at multiple levels and plenty of resources to build up an offense with a few building blocks already under contract.

Falcons fans should take the Panthers seriously; the club is much closer to contention than Atlanta. And depending on how the offseason shakes out, Carolina could propel themselves to perennial contenders. Reports from NFL reporter Benjamin Allbright suggest they could be aggressive in pursuing a franchise quarterback — namely, CJ Stroud.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they were the team that traded all the way to No. 1,” Allbright said on The Mac Attack podcast. “I do think CJ Stroud [is] the apple of their eye—obviously the scouting process hasn’t completely played out yet. But I do think, talking to people, CJ is kinda the guy they’ve kinda eyeballed.”

Stroud put up video game numbers at Ohio State. Over the last two seasons, he threw for 8,123 yards and 85 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. He’s one of the top quarterback prospects in this year’s class, and his performance against the National Champion Georgia Bulldogs put him in the conversation for the top spot.

If Frank Reich sees CJ Stroud as the guy, the Falcons could be in trouble. A rookie quarterback contract may be the most valuable thing in the sport right now. It would give Carolina the financial flexibility to surround the Ohio State product with talent.

The Falcons are trending upward, but they still have questions at quarterback, and if we are going tic for tac, the Panthers have a more talented roster at this point. It doesn’t mean Atlanta can’t surpass Carolina, but David Tepper’s team just hit a home run with Frank Reich. We’ll see how each club approaches the offseason.

Photographer: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire
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