NEW ORLEANS — Joe Brady, the LSU assistant coach and perhaps the future Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator, is young. Really young.
How young? Brady, 30, is four months younger than Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. He’s four years younger than Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.
But age is just a number. And Brady’s other eye-popping numbers from his time as LSU’s passing game coordinator and Joe Burrow’s quarterback whisperer this past college football season may well trump everything else. I think Brady would be a great hire as the OC for new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, who is trying to shake things up for a Carolina team that lost its final eight games in 2019.
Rhule and Brady share an agent, which could streamline things when and if the Panthers officially reach out following the Clemson-LSU national championship game Monday night. There have been multiple reports that Carolina is interested in doing so.
Brady has been careful to not talk about the Panthers or any other job opportunity here in New Orleans, saying at his lone media availability Saturday that his “intentions are to be at LSU.” He even has verbally agreed to a new contract with LSU, according to Sports Illustrated — a three-year deal that would at least double his salary of $410,000.
But Brady — who spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons as an offensive assistant at New Orleans — could get out of that deal if he wants to get back into the pros and chase a Super Bowl dream like Rhule does.
It has been notable in New Orleans how closely Brady’s responses to questions about potential NFL jobs mimicked what Rhule said prior to Baylor’s Sugar Bowl game — his “plan” is to stay with his current job, he hasn’t directly heard from NFL teams.
“From my standpoint, no other talks are happening with other people,” Brady said.
All that may be technically true, but what if Rhule really wants him?
If you think Panthers owner David Tepper would let money stand in the way of the hiring, you haven’t been paying attention. Tepper pays whatever it takes to get what he wants if he thinks it’s going to lead to the promised land. And he should open the checkbook for Brady, much like he did for Rhule (although Brady won’t cost nearly that much).
The primary issue with Brady is that he can’t bring Burrow with him to the NFL. Burrow won’t fall to No. 7, when the Panthers pick, in the 2020 NFL draft. Would Brady’s magic work without Burrow at the controls? That’s the big question. And remember, Brady didn’t even call most of LSU’s plays this year. He called a lot of the red-zone plays, and he called some from the “empty” backfield sets and “compact” (bunched) formations that LSU ran. But the majority of plays were still called by LSU’s offensive coordinator, Steve Ensminger, seated elbow to elbow alongside Brady in the press box.
Still, Brady did change a lot of LSU’s offense this season, and his work with Burrow (who had 5,208 yards and 55 touchdown passes entering Monday night) was remarkable. He won the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top college assistant, in large part because of it.
After every LSU series, Brady’s job was to talk to Burrow about what he saw and what could be done better, while Ensminger’s role was to get ready for the next offensive series. It worked beautifully, as LSU led the nation in scoring offense and Burrow won the Heisman Trophy.
Said Ensminger of Brady: “Joe Brady evolved me. He really did … The sky’s the limit (for Brady’s future), no doubt about it. I’ve told him he’s a hell of a lot smarter than I am. … Every credential and every award he has achieved, he has deserved. But he’s so humble about it.”
A little more background on Brady: He grew up in south Florida, playing in high school for future Mallard Creek head coach Mike Palmieri. He was a barely-used wide receiver at William & Mary in college, mostly playing special teams. He then coached two years at William & Mary, two at Penn State and two with the Saints before landing the LSU job.
Is another job change in the offing? LSU wants to keep Brady and will pay him well to stay.
But the Panthers should go after him. It’s a risk worth taking.
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