Who is Chris Tabor? Panthers tab special teams coach as Frank Reich’s interim replacement after firing

The Carolina Panthers are the second team this season to let go of their head coach. Following the club’s Week 12 loss to the Titans that dropped them to 1-10 on the year, owner David Tepper fired head coach Frank Reich less than a full season into his tenure leading the organization. Carolina’s offense had particularly struggled under Reich and No. 1 overall pick Bryce Young had not taken encouraging steps in his development, which likely helped in the coach’s departure. Reich was hired by the Panthers in January after being fired by the Colts in the middle of last season.

This is the second time in as many years that the Panthers have fired a head coach in-season and Tepper has now tabbed special teams coach Chris Tabor to be the club’s interim head coach the rest of the way. Who is Tabor? Let’s take a look at the new top of Carolina’s coaching masthead.

The Missouri native broke into the NFL as an assistant special teams coach for the Chicago Bears in 2008. Before that, he’d worked at the collegiate level, most notably as the running backs coach and special teams coach at Utah State (2002-2004), and then held the same positions at Western Michigan (2006-2007) before jumping to the pro ranks. He was the assistant head coach and wide receivers coach at Utah State from 2002-2004 and the only time he’s been a head coach in title (outside of interim status) came in 2001 when he was the head coach of Culver-Stockton, a private liberal arts college in Missouri.

After three seasons as the assistant special teams coach with the Bears, Tabor left Chicago to become the special teams coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2011. He held that title through 2017. In that time, the Browns special teams unit had been stellar and he led a group that saw kicker Phil Dawson and returner Joshua Cribbs both reach the Pro Bowl (2012).

In 2018, Tabor returned to the Bears as the club’s specials coordinator under head coach Matt Nagy. During the 2021 season, Tabor did serve as Chicago’s interim head coach for a Week 8 game against the San Francisco 49ers after Nagy tested positive for COVID-19. With Tabor leading the Bears in his head coaching debut, the club fell to the Niners, 33-22. The now 52-year-old joined the Panthers in 2022 as the special teams coordinator under Matt Rhule and kept his role even after the team elected to fire Rhule in the middle of last season and eventually hired Reich. Now, he’ll be taking over as the interim head coach for Carolina as the club moves forward through the 2023 season.

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