Carolina Panthers: Perry Fewell to debut as team’s first black head coach

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Perry Fewell of the New York Giants poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - CIRCA 2010: In this handout image provided by the NFL, Perry Fewell of the New York Giants poses for his 2010 NFL headshot circa 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images) /

When the Carolina Panthers fired Ron Rivera on Tuesday, Perry Fewell was named interim head coach. He is the first black head coach in team history.

In one of the more shocking developments of the current NFL season, the Carolina Panthers decided to move on from long-time head coach Ron Rivera earlier this week. Following Rivera’s exit, the Panthers named Perry Fewell the team’s interim head coach, with Scott Turner transitioning to offensive coordinator, and Norv Turner moving to assistant to the head coach.

Fewell was originally hired by the Panthers prior to the start of this season in the role of defensive backs coach. Now, with three-quarters of the 2019 campaign in the books, the Gastonia-native has been thrust into a head-coaching role–becoming the first black head coach in franchise history. Fewell’s first game as coach of the Panthers will come this Sunday when Carolina travels to Atlanta for a rematch with the sputtering Falcons.

Prior to coaching with the Panthers, Fewell had spent time with six other franchises.

Before coming to Carolina this offseason, Fewell had spent more than two decades as a coach in the NFL, working on the defensive side of the ball each year. During the early going of the 2019 season, Fewell had the Panthers’ secondary playing among the best in the league, and made James Bradberry look like a lockdown cornerback. Seemingly everywhere he has gone, his units have performed well. As a result, the 57-year-old has now been awarded the interim head-coaching vacancy in Carolina. Previously in 2009, he served as the interim coach for the Buffalo Bills. During the seven-game stint in Buffalo, the Bills went 3-4 under Fewell’s watch, including a win over the eventual AFC-champion Colts.

Perry Fewell while with the New York Giants in 2012.
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 30: Perry Fewell, Defensive Coordinator for the New York Giants looks on against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium on December 30, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Other stops in Fewell’s coaching career in the NFL include the Jaguars (twice), Rams, Bears, Giants, and Redskins. He served as the defensive coordinator during the Giants’ 2011 Super Bowl season, and was part of the 2017 Jaguars team that nearly knocked off New England for a trip to the Super Bowl. Fewell has no doubt paid his dues to earn his audition as the Panthers’ next head coach, but he’s going to need his guys to pick up some wins over the last four weeks of the season. If Fewell can whip this talented Carolina roster into shape, there’s a chance he could become the first black full-time head coach in Panthers history later this winter.

Fewell joins three other African Americans as current head coaches in the NFL.

Including Fewell’s promotion earlier this week, the NFL now has four black head coaches across the league. Fewell obviously is one, and joins Anthony Lynn, Brian Flores, and Mike Tomlin. Of the four, Tomlin has by far the most impressive resume. Now in his 13th year as a head coach in the league, Tomlin has a career record of 132-71-1 in the regular season, and has made the playoffs eight times. In six of those seasons, his Steelers won the division, and in 2008 his team won the Super Bowl.

The other two coaches–aside from Fewell–Lynn and Flores are both suffering through disappointing seasons. Lynn’s Chargers have been decimated by injury and appear all-but out of playoff contention. Flores, who was hired by the Dolphins prior to this season, has inherited the mess that is the Miami team, and has gone 3-9 so far in his first year as a head coach. To his credit, Flores’ team has won three of its last five contests, even with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. Tomlin is certainly the first name that comes to mind in terms of African-American head coaches, however, Lynn and Flores both have enormous respect from across the league. It’s time Fewell’s name can be added to the list of well-respected black head coaches as well.