Joe Brady's impressive one-year run as LSU's passing-game coordinator has ended.
Brady is leaving Baton Rouge to become the Carolina Panthers' offensive coordinator, making the 30-year-old the youngest coordinator in the NFL.
The franchise officially announced their hiring of Brady on Thursday morning. He told the team in Charlotte, North Carolina, that the past few days have "been a blur."
"It's happened fast," Brady said in an interview with the Panthers. "But look, these are the opportunities you look forward to, the reasons you coach. To win a national championship with all the hard work those players put in and to be able to call yourself a champion at the college level — that's something they can't take away from you. And now here I am in Charlotte representing the Panthers. It's hard to put into words. But I'm really excited for the future."
The ink is dry 🖊️https://t.co/IBYpH2hrCh
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 16, 2020
LSU coach Ed Orgeron and other athletic officials were consistent with their message over the past few months: They felt confident in their ability to keep Brady with a new deal, and the decision would be made after LSU's record-breaking season ended.
Orgeron said that LSU athletic director Scott Woodward came up with a plan early in the season to keep Brady, and when reports stirred linking Brady to other colleges, Orgeron said "we're a step ahead."
LSU may have had a strong case to retain Brady over other college suitors, but an offer from the NFL was going to be a tough to pass up for the coach who cut his teeth as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints under Sean Payton.
Last week, Brady had agreed to a contract extension with LSU, according to Sports Illustrated, but even the reported three-year deal that would have more than doubled his annual earnings of $410,000 allowed Brady flexibility to leave for an NFL job.
Even LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda's $2.5 million-per-year contract includes a clause that says he doesn't owe the school any liquidated damages if he leaves for the NFL.
Brady was consistently vague when talking about his future.
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In a sitdown with The Advocate on Dec. 10, Brady said: "I don't know what the future holds. I think it's, I'd love to be at LSU, and when I say, 'Absolutely,' it's because I absolutely love being there. I don't think of another job. I never have no matter what."
Brady addressed early reports of his being linked to Rhule and Carolina on Saturday, saying "I haven't been contacted by anybody from that standpoint.
"It's kind of crazy because I was asked the same questions the media day right before the SEC championship," he said. "So it just so happens it comes out all right before media days. So, no, from my standpoint, whether talks are happening with other people, for me, I have no idea."
Brady first met Rhule when he was still a linebackers coach at William & Mary in 2014. He went up to Temple to learn defense from Rhule, who was Temple's head coach at the time, and defensive coordinator Phil Snow.
Brady told that story at the Broyles Award event in Little Rock, Arkansas, where Snow was also a finalist as Rhule's defensive coordinator at Baylor.
"I had just gotten into the business," Brady told the Panthers. "I had no relationships. It was a great opportunity for me to sit down and learn. It was really rewarding. I love how it has all come full circle, and I'm excited to be a part of what he's going to build here."
Brady was one of the main pieces behind LSU's major offensive turnaround in 2019. The first-year assistant helped install a revamped spread offense — in tandem with offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger — with West Coast and run-pass-option schemes he learned as an offensive assistant with the Saints, and as a graduate assistant at Penn State.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow thrived in the offense, winning the Heisman Trophy and becoming the program's first quarterback to throw for more than 5,000 yards (5,671) and an NCAA record 60 touchdown passes.
The Carolina Panthers draft seventh overall in the upcoming draft — a high enough slot that may give them some wiggle room to trade up and draft Burrow and reunite him with Brady.
"I have had heard from Joe Burrow," Brady told the Panthers. "To sum it up, he said he appreciated me. I'll keep it at that."
Brady won the Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant coach. He was the first to win the award who wasn't a primary offensive or defensive coordinator.
Brady is tasked with revamping a Panthers offense that ranked 20th in the NFL in total offense. Starting quarterback Cam Newton played in just two games due to a foot injury, and running back Christian McCaffrey was named first-team All-Pro after rushing for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns while catching 116 passes for 1,005 yards and four scores.
"In a way, you are almost limited at the college level with the amount of time you can have with your players," Brady told the Panthers. "Now I can expand upon that package and hone in on some new things that we didn't have an opportunity to get to. But from an offensive structure standpoint, yes, that can all translate. We'll put together a system as a staff, and I'm excited to see the end result."
Brady signed a three-year contract Feb. 3 with LSU. The deal was on track to pay him $410,000 per year in his first year, $435,000 in his second and $460,000 in his final season until the contract expires March 31, 2022.
With Brady's departure, Orgeron will be tasked with reconstructing his offensive staff for his program's push for a repeat title in 2020.
It's possible Ensminger takes full rein of the offense next season. In May, the 61-year-old Baton Rouge native signed a two-year, $800,000-per-year contract with LSU that expires March 31, 2021.
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Brady has said often that Ensminger's contributions have often been overlooked.
"This should just say ‘Steve Ensminger,’ ” Brady said when he won the Broyles Trophy. "But if it says ‘Joe Brady,’ it says ‘Joe Brady/Steve Ensminger’ next to it."
But the Ensminger-Brady dynamic in the booth on game day was cooperative. Ensminger was the play-caller, both coaches have said; after offensive drives, Brady broke down the previous drive with Burrow while Ensminger prepared the plays for the next drive.
It was a process that allowed LSU to be a "step ahead" during a game.
Will Orgeron seek to maintain that dynamic by replacing Brady with another passing-game coordinator who will coach in a similar role?
LSU analyst Jorge Munoz, a former offensive coordinator at UL, is on staff, and Burrow respected him enough that he attended the quarterback's Heisman ceremony in New York.
Munoz has also been included in multiple reports that link his name to the vacant offensive coordinator position at Oregon.
Brady's departure was a possibility Orgeron and LSU recognized months ago.
"After the season, we have coaches that are gonna get chances to go elsewhere," Orgeron said in November. "But the ones that we want to keep, we’re gonna fight like heck to keep.”