Dom Capers, the first head coach in Carolina Panthers history, has rejoined the franchise as a senior defensive assistant — and he’s a big reason why Ejiro Evero was named the Panthers’ defensive coordinator on Frank Reich’s staff.
Capers said Wednesday that he has “no doubt” Evero will be an NFL head coach in time.
“He’ll have credibility because he really knows what he’s doing,” Capers said. “He has that ‘it’ factor.”
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Evero, 42, spent time together on the staff of the Denver Broncos last season, with Capers serving as a mentor of sorts as Evero was navigating his first season as an NFL defensive coordinator. But it was not their first ride together. Capers was the defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers in 2016 when Evero joined that staff as a quality control coach and learned the ropes from the 72-year-old Capers.
“I was doing all of the grunt work (in 2016),” Evero said Wednesday. “And then transition into last year where, as a first-time coordinator, there (are) a lot of things you really don’t know about the job — even though you feel like you’re prepared for the opportunity — until you get into that seat.
“Coach Capers is beyond — in terms of a guide to how to do the job, do it at a high level and an elite level — someone to bounce ideas off of. … All of those things as a first-time coordinator were so valuable to me.”
They’ll essentially reprise that relationship in Carolina, even though Evero now has been through a full season as a defensive coordinator. It sounds as if they’ve already worked out the basics of their roles together in terms of how they’ll organize a Panthers defense that mostly ranked in the bottom half of the NFL last season.
“It’s a collaboration,” Evero said. “It’s a friendship, and it’s a collaboration. He’s a dear friend, and he’s somebody that we work together with.
“A big thing that I tell everybody: This is not my defense. It’s me, the coaches, especially Dom’s influence, and the players. We’re all putting this thing together. And we’re collaborating to make a defense and make the best defense possible. And Dom is definitely a huge part of that.”
Capers said his goal is to “try to do as much as I can to help Evero be successful as a defensive coordinator and Frank as a head coach.”
Despite the 30-year age difference between the two coaches, Evero clearly has a great deal of respect for Capers, whom he called “a man of great character.” Evero also said there’s no concern when it comes to Capers’ “hip” factor despite being 50 years older than some of Carolina’s players.
“Dom stays plenty young by himself,” Evero joked.
Added Capers, “Being around these young guys and watching them compete keeps you young, I’ll say that.”
Capers is back with the Panthers for a second stint after serving as the franchise’s inaugural head coach from 1995 to 1998, extending an NFL coaching career that began in 1986 with the Saints. Like Evero, Reich also can count Capers as a mentor, as he was Reich’s head coach in 1995, when Reich started the first game and threw the first touchdown pass in franchise history.
“It’s great to be back,” Capers said, noting that Charlotte’s skyline has changed quite a bit over 25 years. But working with Reich and Evero bring obvious familiarity — and a chance to bring his coaching career back
“Someone once told me (that) if you stay in this business long enough, it’ll come full circle,” Capers said.
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