Matt Rhule, who was once a $62 million hot hire, was ousted as Panthers coach during his third season.
In January of 2020, Matt Rhule was one of the hottest coaching candidates in the NFL. The New York Giants were apparently interested in signing him away from Baylor, but the Carolina Panthers surprised everyone by signing him to a seven-year, $62 million contract.
The Giants were fortunate.
Rhule proved to be a costly error for Panthers owner David Tepper. Prior to the conclusion of the third season of this contract, Rhule was sacked. The Panthers made the announcement on Monday morning. As Panthers coach, Rhule was 11-27. Sunday’s listless 37-15 loss to the San Francisco 49ers was Rhule’s final game as the team’s head coach and put the Panthers to 1-4 on the season. Rhule is the first NFL head coach to be dismissed this season.
Steve Wilks, who coached the Arizona Cardinals for one season as defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach, will serve as the team’s interim coach.
Rhule was an excellent college coach, having built up both Temple and Baylor. This landed him on the radar of the NFL, despite the fact that most college coaches fail in the professional. The Panthers put a significant investment in him with no return.
His first year as a professional, Rhule posted a record of 5-11. Then, in his second season, he went 5-12. It seems unlikely that he would return for a third season, but he was welcomed back, most likely because he still had five years remaining on his massive contract. Rhule’s third season began with an increase in offensive issues and losses.
As Rhule’s losses accumulated, it became evident that Tepper would not have infinite patience with him.
All three of Rhule’s seasons were plagued by mediocre quarterback play. Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield were all unsuccessful during his tenure as quarterback. The Panthers were 3-0 and optimistic last season, but then running back Christian McCaffrey was injured and they lost 12 of their final 14 games.
Rhule might find another college head-coaching position fast. Rhule was competent at that level, and a school with an opening for a new head coach, such as Nebraska, could consider him given his history of program development. It appears likely that Rhule’s next opportunity will not be in the NFL.
The Panthers begin their search without a terrible roster, but Tepper’s bank account is the only selling point for the job. Since the 2015 15-1 season that ended with a loss in Super Bowl 50, there has not been much success. Carolina hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 2017 and hasn’t won a postseason game since the 2015 campaign.
The relationship between a college coach with the Panthers failed. Both parties will now attempt to heal the damage.