Dave Canales (‘03) is set to take the reins in Carolina after an impressive season in Tampa Bay. 

It didn’t take long for the NFL to take notice of Dave Canales’ talents. After a 9-8 season in his first year with Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator (OC) was offered the head coach position with the Carolina Panthers per ESPN’s Adam Schefter

Canales, who graduated from Azusa Pacific University in 2003, has shown to be one of the brightest young offensive coaches in the league. In his first year with the Buccaneers, he drastically outperformed expectations. As OC, Canales led the Bucs to an NFC South championship with a dominant playoff victory against the Philadelphia Eagles (the defending conference champion). 

In addition to team success, Canales was instrumental in the resurgence of former first-overall pick Baker Mayfield. After bouncing around the league following a departure from Cleveland in 2021, Mayfield flourished under Canales, throwing for career highs in yards (4,044) and touchdowns (28). Despite being written off by both NFL executives and media personalities, Mayfield’s career revival has positioned him to become a top free-agent target this offseason. 

Before Tampa Bay, Canales spent eight seasons in Seattle as a quality control coach (2010-12), assistant quarterbacks coach (2013-14), wide receivers coach (2015-17), quarterbacks coach (2018-19, 2022), and passing game coordinator (2020-21)  for Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks. In Seattle, he worked his way through the ranks to build a dynamic Seahawks offense where quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Geno Smith racked up a cumulative 10 Pro Bowl nods and made 10 playoff appearances with one Super Bowl championship (2013). Canales also spent one year under Carroll at USC as a strength coach in 2009. Prior to USC, Canales spent three years as tight ends coach, special teams coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2006-08

At APU, Canales graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business while playing football for the Cougars with his brother, current Dean of Students, Coba Canales. The brothers played opposite each other, with Dave on offense at wide receiver and Coba at defensive back. 

In Carolina, Canales enters the 2024 season with a lot of work to do. The Panthers finished 2-15 this season and fired head coach Frank Reich after just 11 games. Rookie quarterback and top overall pick Bryce Young struggled mightily and will be eager to shake off the title of “bust” in 2024. In his first season, Young had statistically one of the worst seasons in NFL history. To make matters worse, the Panthers are without a first-round pick in this year’s draft as a result of the trade with the Chicago Bears last year to land Young. 

However, if anyone can turn around the Panthers, it’s Canales. Panther fans and owner David Tepper are certainly hoping Canales’ offense finds a way to unlock Young’s potential much like he did with Mayfield in Tampa Bay and Smith in Seattle (Smith had been a long-term backup before Canales coached him into Pro Bowl form). 

Rarely do NFL coaches accept jobs within their own division; however, the decision to join an NFC South rival in Carolina is not without reason. Upon his arrival, Canales will reunite with Panthers General Manager (GM) Dan Morgan, who served as an assistant GM in Seattle from 2010-17. 

While the details like the length and price of the head coaching deal remain unknown, “It will get done,” sources told Schefter. If Canales can replicate even a fraction of the success he found in Tampa Bay, it will change the direction of a franchise that so desperately needs it.