The Carolina Panthers' search for a new head coach to replace Ron Rivera, who was fired in early December after nine years with the team, will reportedly include Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the Panthers have already requested an interview with Bieniemy and hope to talk with him during the Chiefs' current playoff bye week. They are also "expected to request" an interview with McDaniels, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Carolina earned four playoff appearances during a five-year span under Rivera starting in 2013. The stretch was highlighted by a 15-1 regular season in 2015 that was followed by a run to Super Bowl 50, where the Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos.
The team's performance dropped off in recent years, though. The Panthers went 7-9 in 2018 and were 5-7 when Rivera was dismissed after Week 13 this season. They finished the year 5-11 with franchise quarterback Cam Newton making just two appearances because of injury.
Bieniemy has served as the Chiefs' offensive coordinator for the past two seasons after five years as the team's running backs coach. He's worked alongside head coach Andy Reid to craft one of the NFL's most explosive attacks. K.C. ranked fifth in scoring this year after leading the league in points per game in 2018.
"I'd say hire him, like right now. That's what I'd tell you. I don't want to lose him, but if you're asking me if he's ready to be a head coach? Yeah, he's ready. He was ready last year. Nobody is in more control than what he is within this game. He is a leader of men. He knows football, but he knows the offense like the back of his hand. He is in the quarterback room every day. I think if you talked to Patrick [Mahomes], I think Patrick would tell you how much of an influence he has had on him."
Meanwhile, McDaniels led the Denver Broncos' coaching staff in 2009 and part of 2010. He compiled an 11-17 record before getting fired during the 2010 campaign.
After one season as the then-St. Louis Rams' offensive coordinator, he returned to the Patriots in the same role in which he rose to prominence from 2005-08.
McDaniels, who Schefter reported is also generating interest from the Cleveland Browns, was mentioned in head coaching rumors last year. He ultimately stayed with the Pats after backing out of an agreement with the Indianapolis Colts.
"If that's in the cards for me, then that's great," he said last December about potentially becoming a head coach again. "I've said that before, but again I'm not worried about that right now."
New England opens the playoffs Saturday night with a home game against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC Wild Card Round, so Carolina may be forced to wait until the team's postseason run ends before getting a formal interview with the six-time Super Bowl winning assistant.