Matt Rhule has had a short tenure with the Panthers so far, but his job as the Panthers head coach is starting to heat up.
Since the Carolina Panthers started back in 1995 they have had only four head coaches not named Matt Rhule (Not including Perry Fewell, who was the interim coach in 2019). Of those coaches, most of them have stayed a decent time in Carolina with only one of those coaches coaching less than 50 total games, that coach being George Seifert.
When Seifert left, the Panthers had two long term head coaches in John Fox, who coached from 2002-2010, and Ron Rivera, who coached from 2011-2019
When Fox departed, it was obviously a massive loss for the Panthers, and they clearly found themselves another great coach in Ron Rivera. When Rivera eventually left the Panthers they were hoping to find themselves another great long-term coach, and that’s what they aimed for in Matt Rhule.
Matt Rhule’s time before the Carolina Panthers
To be fair to Matt Rhule and the Panthers, he had a pretty good resume before his coaching job with Carolina. The two most notable jobs/positives on his resume were his jobs with Temple and Baylor. With Temple, Rhule rebuilt the program to a status that they haven’t seen since the ’60s as he managed to help the Owls win their first Conference title since 1967.
While Rhule did some great things with Temple, his time with Baylor is what really put him on the NFL map. Rhule’s first season with Baylor was a mess, to say the least as the Bears finished with a 1-11 record, but the following years are what really got some head turned Rhule’s way.
Rhule’s second year with Baylor was a fantastic season as they went from 1-11 to 7-6 with a bowl game victory over Vanderbilt. Rhule built upon his second year with a great third season as Baylor went 11-1.
Baylor would lose their conference championship game against Oklahoma 23-30 and their bowl game against 14-26, but despite those losses, Rhule clearly turned around this program.
Matt Rhule’s costly errors with the Panthers
Being that Rhule turned two college football programs into bowl game contenders at the very least, you can see why Carolina would want to hire him. In Rhule’s first offseason, you could see that he had a good amount of say in the draft as Carolina’s 2020 rookie class was filled entirely with defensive players.
While there were some well-known names drafted, namely Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, and Jeremy Chinn, none of them have made a huge impact, outside of Chinn thus far.
While Rhule’s first draft was quite notable, the following off-season is likely the biggest move of his head coaching tenure with the Panthers. In April of 2021, the Carolina Panthers traded a 2021 6th round pick, a 2nd round pick, and a 4th round pick in 2022 for the services of Sam Darnold.
With Sam Darnold in, somebody in the QB room would likely have to go out, and out somebody went as Teddy Bridgewater was traded to the Denver Broncos.
While back when the trade happened, Twitter was set ablaze with the trade moves and speculation of how Teddy and Sam would fare with their new teams, we can now see how they have panned out so far with the magic of this little thing called time. To make a long story short, I think its safe to say that the Broncos got the better QB of the two as Teddy Bridgewater has looked solid in Denver, meanwhile, Darnold has struggled in Carolina, is currently injured, and may not get his starting QB job back as Carolina has brought in Cam Newton.
To rub the salt in the wound of Carolina somewhat, the Panthers still have a large dead cap hit due to Teddy’s contract and are paying $7 million of his signing bonus while Denver is only paying the $4.5 million of his salary.
Not only have the Panthers had some issues with QBs under Matt Rhule’s rule (see what I did there?), but they have also had some issues within the coaching staff itself. Nine days after Carolina hired Rhule, they hired a new offensive coordinator to join him in Joe Brady.
Brady had a small but good resume as he was the passing game coordinator and wide receiver coach of the LSU offense that destroyed college football. Despite being a good offensive coordinator and having helped lead one of the best college offenses in history, Brady would find himself fired on December 5th of this year.
Outside of likely screwing up the QB situation in Carolina, the wins have not come for Carolina either. Rhule started his tenure with the Panthers going 5-11, and while 5-11 isn’t a great record at all, it’s more than fair to cut him some slack being that it was his first year with the team.
After struggling in their first season with Rhule, the Panthers started 2021 in a good spot as they went 3-0 in the first three games of the season, but things took a quick turn from there on out. Carolina has now fallen to 5-8.
Should Matt Rhule be out the door soon and who should replace him?
If this was Matt Rhule’s first season as the Panthers head coach, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but the thing is, this isn’t his first season. Rhule and company have made some large mistakes as they traded away Bridgewater and brought in Sam Darnold for a large number of draft picks, fired their young quality offensive coordinator after less than two years, haven’t had a strong draft in 2020, and haven’t won a large number of games.
I’m not saying Matt Rhule should be fired the second this article is posted, but what I am saying is that when the NFL season comes to an end, the Carolina Panthers should take a strong look at Rhule’s contract and take a strong look at the other possible head coaching candidates I’m about to list.