When a team performs as poorly as the Carolina Panthers have thus far in the 2022 season, it is only a matter of time until changes are to be made. Management and ownership decided that the time was now, as they made a big move on Monday, firing head coach Matt Rhule.
The Panthers were off to a 1-4 start this season, looking like one of the worst teams in the league. There had been rumors floating around that Rhule had lost the locker room, which is usually the last nail in the coffin for a head coach.
Despite what owner David Tepper said early in the offseason, about a rebuild potentially taking five or six years, this firing isn’t too surprising. He also offered a vote of confidence to his head coach, saying, “I believe in Matt. He has my full support.”
“I’m a fan,” Tepper added that day. “I don’t like to lose. But it takes time and it takes a foundation, and it takes time to create the foundation to win. I do believe Coach Rhule and [general manager] Scott [Fitterer] have done a great job of creating that foundation.”
Rhule was seemingly on the hot seat coming into the season despite what Tepper said. His firing followed another embarrassing loss as the San Francisco 49ers blew out the Panthers, 37-15.
That is 25 consecutive games that the Panthers have lost when their opponent scores at least 17 points, as the team was 1-27 in such games under Rhule. That alone is enough of a reason for a head coach to get fired as it means one of two things; his teams just give up at a certain point of the game and he cannot get them to finish things out or they are just unprepared to play. Neither are good, as they are bad knocks against a coach.
A big reason for Rhule’s failed tenure in Carolina was the instability at the quarterback position. Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield were all tabbed as starters but none were able to get the job done. The team did try to acquire Deshaun Watson from the Houston Texans, but once he chose the Cleveland Browns, they pivoted to making a deal for Mayfield.
Mayfield has been unable to regain the form that he showed during the 2020 campaign when he led the Browns to the playoffs and a wild-card victory over their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers. There are some good pieces on this Panthers roster, but without good play from the quarterback position, success is tough to find.
But, there are teams around the league succeeding with less, such as the New York Giants with new head coach Brian Daboll, which is an indictment on the job that Rhule was doing. He finishes his Panthers tenure 11-27 and it is hard to imagine him getting another chance in the NFL anytime soon.
Matt Rhule signed a massive seven-year, $62 million deal to become the team’s head coach in 2020 but didn’t even make it through three full seasons. The turnarounds he was able to lead collegiately with Temple and Baylor never materialized with the Panthers, who will begin their search for a new head coach. Steve Wilks will take over on an interim basis.