As of Tuesday afternoon, the Carolina Panthers were violating NFL rules in their search for a permanent head coach, multiple sources tell CBS Sports.
A league executive called the Panthers Wednesday morning to remind the team that every member of its search committee was to complete the mandatory comprehensive recruiting training before the search began, which has now been seen..
According to sources, Nicole Tepper, wife of Panthers owner David Tepper and Chief Administrative Officer of Tepper Sports & Entertainment, did not complete the comprehensive recruiting training required to participate in interviews Tuesday night.
“Inclusive recruiting training is a key component of our efforts to foster an equitable recruiting process,” Jonathan Beane, NFL SVP and chief diversity and inclusion officer, said in a statement. “Any suggestion that the applicable clubs have not met this mandatory requirement will be dealt with immediately and corrected.”
Following a request for comment, a staff spokesman said in a statement: “She was trained before taking part in interviews.” No further elaboration was given.
Multiple sources have refuted the Panthers’ statement. It is unclear if the league plans to impose any punishment on the team.
The NFL added this requirement at the October fall league meeting, and earlier in the month.
On December 2, the league sent a memo to all teams and included chief executives, club presidents, head coaches and general managers. In Step 1B of the memo — near the top of the page — the series instructs teams that comprehensive hiring training is required.
“Club owners and key decision makers (those involved in candidate selection) are required to participate in comprehensive hiring training before the search begins,” the memo reads. “Please review the appendix for the list of trainers approved by the Contract office to hire. You have the option to hire any of the comprehensive trainers on the list or choose your own to be approved by the office of the Contract.”
The league then offers eight different consulting/consultant groups to complete the mandatory training with links on how to access this information. One source said teams received numerous emails and correspondence about the importance of each member of the search committee personally conducting the training.
Although general manager Scott Fitterer said two weeks ago that “it’s not a big group” interviewing for the head job, the Panthers have now submitted applications to at least a dozen coaches.
As of Thursday afternoon, the Panthers have already interviewed Steve Wilks, Jim Caldwell, Frank Reich, Shane Steichen and Ejiro Evero.
Carolina has seen two coaching candidates remove themselves from consideration in the past week. Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo took himself out of the weekend as he worked on a contract extension in New England. Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson surprisedTuesday night, one day before he was scheduled to be interviewed. Many around the league considered Johnson the leading candidate for the job.
The Panthers had requested permission to interview San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, but any potential interview is now on hold due to what a league source called a logistical issue.
David Tepper is now looking for his third permanent head coach since purchasing the team in 2018. Tepper inherited Ron Rivera and fired him near the end of the 2019 season. He hired Matt Rhule in 2020 before firing Rule five week into the 2022 season.