DATs DAVIS: Carolina Panthers Fire HC Matt Rhule

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

After starting the 2022 NFL season with a 1-4 record, the Carolina Panthers have reportedly fired head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule’s only win this season came against the New Orleans Saints in week 3, but has lost 11 of his last 12 games as a head coach. Rhule made a name for himself in the world of college football, turning both Baylor and Temple schools into contenders in short order. Panthers owner David Tepper had extreme confidence in Rhule’s coaching ability, believing he could do the same for their franchise.

Rhule finishes his tenure in Carolina with a 11-27 overall record over the last two NFL seasons and becomes the first head coach in franchise history to not finish three full seasons before being released. Rhule came to the Panthers in 2020 and cashed in on a big payday. Rhule landed a seven-year, $62 million deal with the Panthers organization and is currently owed more than $40 million according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

In his first season with the Panthers, Rhule spent all of his 2020 NFL Draft picks on defensive players, looking to completely rebuild the Panthers roster. He also started with former Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who was just coming off a 2019 season where he finished 5-0 as a starter in replace of ex-Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Despite landing a three-year deal, Bridgewater’s time in Carolina was brief. The quarterback was traded to the Denver Broncos after only one season.

Rhule’s struggle with finding a franchise quarterback continued, as they turned to former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in 2021. The year started off promising for the Panthers, getting out to a 3-0 start to start the year, but quickly went downhill after injuries began plaguing the team after their week four matchup against the Houston Texans. In dire need to find a spark for their offense, Rhule turned to a familiar face in quarterback Cam Newton. At that time, Newton was released from the New England Patriots in favor of Mac Jones. Unfortunately, Newton didn’t provide much of a spark as Rhule had hoped and the Panthers finished with a 5-12 record.

The coach was coming into this season with his job on the line, and needed to produce results in short order. This offseason, Rhule and the Panthers traded for ex-Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. Mayfield is a former 1st overall pick who was reportedly adamant on leaving the Browns after the organization publicly sought the services of quarterback Deshaun Watson. Mayfield found a new home in the Panthers, and Watson received a ground breaking five-year, $230 million fully guaranteed deal.

The NFC conference was essentially wide open going into the season, and the NFC South was relatively weak. Unfortunately, more of the same with Rhule and the Panthers as Mayfield has failed to live up to expectations thus far. The quarterback has struggled to find any rhythm with the offense and is now coming off two back-to-back crushing losses to the Arizona Cardinals and the San Francisco 49ers. His lone win against the Saints, Mayfield’s performance that game was considered bare minimum as the team leaned on its defense to generate pressure and force turnovers.

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