Matt Rhule

Position Coaches: Gilbride, Flaherty, Lupoi, Tolbert

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is beginning to fill out the position coaching spots in Carolina. Kevin M. Gilbride will be in charge of the team’s tight ends and Pat Flaherty is expected to be named the team’s offensive line coach, per Alex Marvez of Fox Sports. Gilbride has extensive experience as a tight ends coach, serving in the position with the Giants from 2014-17 and with the Bears from 2018 until he was fired last month.

The Panthers will be the fifth NFL organization to hire Flaherty as an offensive line coach. Flaherty worked as the offensive line coach from 2004-2015 with the Giants followed by a one-year stint with the 49ers, a two-year stint with the Jaguars, and a a short period with the Dolphins in 2019. While Flaherty brings a long line of experience, he was fired in Miami prior to the end of training camp after struggling to implement the team’s scheme.

  • The Falcons have named Browns defensive line coach Tosh Lupoi as the team’s defensive line coach and run game coordinator, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Lupoi was a collegiate defensive lineman at Cal, where he began his coaching career in 2008. After a stint with the University of Washington as the defensive line coach, he joined the staff at Alabama, eventually becoming the team’s defensive coordinator in 2018. Lupoi moved to the professional coaching ranks for the first time when he joined Freddie Kitchens‘ staff prior to this season.
  • Giants new head coach Joe Judge will not be making changes to the entire coaching staff. Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, reports that Judge is expected to retain wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. While New York struggled in many areas this season, the receiving corp showed impressive depth. Tolbert was credited with helping late-round pick, Darius Slayton, become a legitimate receiving option.

Extra Points: Thielen, Panthers, Falcons, Raiders

Vikings WR Adam Thielen suffered a bad cut on his ankle during Wednesday’s practice, reports NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (via Twitter). The cut required stitches, but the team is optimistic that he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s playoff game against the 49ers. As the reporter notes, the organization is “still gathering information and will proceed with caution.”

The wideout appeared in 10 games this season – the first time in his NFL career that he didn’t appear in all 16 regular season contests. He finished the regular season with 30 receptions for 418 yards and six scores. He had a standout game during the Vikings win over the Saints last weekend, hauling in seven receptions for 129 yards.

If Thielen was forced out of the lineup, Kirk Cousins will predictably lean on wideout Stefon Diggs. The team could also turn to the likes of Olabisi Johnson, Alexander Hollins, and Laquon Treadwell.

Let’s check out some more notes from around the NFL…

  • Panthers general manager Marty Hurney will turn to head coach Matt Rhule as the team continues to rebuild the front office. Hurney told The Athletic’s Joe Person (Twitter link) that he’ll collaborate with Rhule as the organization hunts for an assistance GM. The executive cautioned that the search could take some time.
  • The Falcons will hire Joe Whitt Jr. for a defensive position on the coaching staff, reports ESPN’s Vaughn McClure. Whitt Jr. previously served as the Browns pass-game coordinator/secondary coach, and he was Atlanata’s assistant defensive backs coach back in 2007. It’s uncertain what specific role Whitt Jr. will take on under defensive coordinator Raheem Morris.
  • Vic Tafur of The Athletic opines that the Raiders should add a playmaking wideout this offseason, and he notes that the organization “really like[s]” one impending free agent: Jets receiver Robby Anderson. Current Raiders senior offensive assistant John Morton was the Jets offensive coordinator when Anderson had his most productive season in 2017.

NFC East Notes: Giants, Judge, Cowboys

Before signing a whopping seven-year, $60MM+ deal with the Panthers, coach Matt Rhule asked if the Giants were willing to match the offer. The organization ultimately passed, and co-owner John Mara said the team wasn’t comfortable paying that kind of money for a first-time NFL coach.

“For a new head coach in the NFL, I just didn’t think that was a reasonable way to go,” Mara told SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano (Twitter link). The executive noted that the organization was also already excited about the prospect of hiring Joe Judge.

We heard yesterday that the Giants asked Rhule to meet with them in person, but Rhule pressed for a more definitive answer. When the Giants informed him that they would not match on the money or length of the deal, Rhule cancelled his Giants interview and accepted the Panthers offer, out of fear that owner David Tepper would pivot to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

Let’s check out some more notes out of the NFC East…

  • Speaking of Judge, when Mara first met with the former Patriots ST coordinator, he wasn’t “really expecting all that much because I didn’t really know him” (via Vacchiano on Twitter). When asked if Judge was on Mara’s initial list of candidates, the executive gave a candid response: “If you asked me a week ago, 10 days ago, I would have said it probably would have been a long shot.”
  • Texas associate head coach and run game coordinator Stan Drayton was scheduled to meet with the Cowboys today, as ESPN’s Todd Archer passes along. Drayton does have a connection to the offense, as he coached Ezekiel Elliott back at Ohio State. The 48-year-old also previously served as the Bears running back coach. Archer adds that running backs coach Gary Brown could still return to the organization.
  • In case you missed it, former Redskins’ senior VP of player personnel Doug Williams will now serve as senior vice president of player development. The organization also parted ways with football operations vice president Eric Schaffer.

David Tepper Non-Committal On Cam Newton’s Panthers Future

Cam Newton is recovering from foot surgery and has one season remaining on his Panthers contract. Team owner David Tepper did not halt speculation that the former MVP will be traded.

While the second-year owner obviously did not indicate Newton would not be part of the 2020 Panthers, the prospect of the 30-year-old quarterback being dealt did not decrease after Matt Rhule‘s introductory presser.

Every player that buys into this, the more they buy into this, the more things can work,” Tepper said. “And that’s what we’re going to need here, is buy-in from people, OK? If we can get that kind of buy in sooner rather than later, no matter what the personnel is. We will try to use our personnel to the best possible [advantage], whoever that personnel is.”

Rhule stopped short of saying he wanted Cam Newton back but noted (via ESPN’s David Newton) he “certainly looks forward” to working with the nine-year veteran. The former Temple and Baylor HC did not articulate a precise course of action for the Panthers at the quarterback position, per GM Marty Hurney.

That’s something that we are going to have to sit down and talk about the whole time,” Hurney said. “But, you know, we’ve got a guy that was MVP of the NFL. [Rhule] knows that. This is all going to be a process. He’s going to have to get to know these guys and the roster.”

After an initial surge, the Panthers cratered without Newton this season. But losing their final eight games puts the Panthers in the No. 7 spot. That may be in range to nab a quarterback. However, the Dolphins and Chargers at Nos. 5-6 are prime landing spots for Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert. Carolina moving Newton would supply the franchise with more draft capital for a potential trade-up while also running the risk of thrusting a team with several accomplished veterans into quarterback no man’s land.

Newton is attached to a manageable $18.6MM salary next season. Depending on how/when he recovers from his foot procedure, the former Heisman winner’s status with Carolina will be one of the offseason’s defining storylines.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Matt Rhule Preferred Giants To Panthers?

On Tuesday, Matt Rhule signed on as the new coach of the Panthers. However, the former Baylor head coach preferred the Giants job, according to a source who spoke with Ralph Vacchiano of SNY

After receiving a whopping seven-year, $62MM offer from the Panthers – a deal that could reach $70MM, through incentives – Rhule called the Giants to see if they would be willing to match. The Giants asked Rhule to meet with them in person, but Rhule pressed for a more definitive answer. When the Giants informed him that they would not match on the money or length of the deal, Rhule cancelled his Giants interview and accepted the Panthers offer, out of fear that owner David Tepper would pivot to Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

In the weeks leading up to the hire of Joe Judge, Rhule was the Giants’ top target in their search. However, the Giants insist that they preferred the Patriots assistant, even when putting finances aside. Judge floored the Giants in his interview and Vacchiano hears that he came with a sterling recommendation from Bill Belichick.

It doesn’t matter how we got here,” one team source told Vacchiano. “We feel we got the right guy. And I think everyone will be happy in the end.”

Ron Rivera was also linked to the Giants job by many, due to his history with GM Dave Gettleman. The Giants had interest in the 58-year-old, but Vacchiano hears that he was not considered a priority, even before he was hired by the rival Redskins.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: Rhule, Giants, Cowboys

Even after Joe Judge‘s standout interview Monday led to him becoming the Giants‘ head coach, the franchise still had Matt Rhule as their preferred candidate. The Panthers‘ seven-year, $62MM offer to the Baylor head coach essentially prompted the Giants to fold their hand on this front, with Ralph Vacchiano of SNY noting Big Blue balked at the contract length and salary. Rhule’s $8.9MM salary makes him the sixth-highest-paid coach in the league — behind Bill Belichick ($12MM per year), Pete Carroll ($11MM AAV), Jon Gruden ($10MM), Sean Payton ($9.8MM) and John Harbaugh ($9MM). The Panthers also paid Baylor a $6MM buyout, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Just months ago, Rhule agreed to an extension with the Big 12 program.

Here is the latest from the coaching front:

  • In addition to missing out on the Ron Rivera boat, the Giants wanted to speak with Mike McCarthy again, Vacchiano adds. The Cowboys swooping in prevented such an opportunity.
  • Big Blue received a ringing Judge endorsement from Belichick, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). The former Giants defensive coordinator and six-time Super Bowl-winning head coach called the Giants to sell them on Judge’s credentials, despite his non-traditional candidacy as a special teams coordinator.
  • Shifting to McCarthy’s Cowboys staff, the team is expected to hire Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel to the same position, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com tweets. Fassel’s contract was up. The second-generation NFL coach will relocate to Dallas after spending eight seasons with the Rams. Fassel came over from the Raiders in 2012, when Jeff Fisher took over in St. Louis, and stayed on with Sean McVay‘s team for three seasons. Fassel served as Rams interim HC in 2016, after the franchise fired Fisher. The Rams are losing their DC and ST coordinators, with Wade Phillips also out of the picture.
  • Other candidates have surfaced to relocate to Texas. Cowboys assistants expect Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan to be named Dallas’ new defensive coordinator, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Nolan was the 49ers’ head coach in 2005, when McCarthy served as San Francisco’s OC. Additionally, Redskins defensive line coach Jim Tomsula is on McCarthy’s radar, per Pelissero (on Twitter). Tomsula was the 49ers’ HC in 2015 and has been the Redskins’ D-line coach since 2017.
  • The Bengals and special teams coordinator Darrin Simmons have agreed to an extension, Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports (on Twitter). A longtime Dolphins ST boss, Simmons interviewed for the Bengals’ HC job last year and joined Cincinnati’s staff as a key assistant after the top job went to Zac Taylor. Despite Cincinnati’s 2-14 record, the team ranked first in special teams DVOA under its first-year leader.

Panthers To Hire Matt Rhule

The Panthers have agreed to hire Matt Rhule as their next head coach, according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). The Panthers came to terms with the Baylor head coach shortly after meeting with him. Clearly, they did not want him to get on a plane to New York and risk losing him to the Giants, who reportedly had him at the top of their list

Rhule will receive a seven-year deal worth $60MM, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). The pact also includes $10MM in incentives that could boost the overall value to $70MM. It’s an eye-popping contract, given Rhule’s lack of pro experience, and positions him as one of the highest-paid coaches in the league. The Panthers will also have to take care of Rhule’s buyout with Baylor, which is believed to be upwards of $15MM.

The two sides are currently hashing out terms of a deal. Once finalized, the deal will likely place him in the top half of NFL head coaching salaries, even though Rhule has limited pro experience.

Rhule’s sole season in the NFL came with the Giants, where he served as an assistant offensive line coach in 2012. As a college coach, Rhule went 47-43 in seven seasons at Temple and Baylor. That record doesn’t necessarily jump off of the page, but NFL teams have taken notice of Baylor’s quick turnaround from the Art Briles era under Rhule’s watch.

Baylor went 1-11 in Rhule’s first season at the helm in 2017, but, this year, the Bears reached the Sugar Bowl. Baylor lost to Georgia, but that had no bearing on Rhule’s red-hot candidacy. The Panthers and Giants were both gung-ho on him and he also rejected an opportunity to interview for the Browns’ post.

Rhule takes the place of Ron Rivera, who was fired after eight-plus seasons as the Panthers’ head coach. The Panthers are coming off of a challenging season, but there’s plenty of talent for Rhule to work with. In Carolina, the focus now shifts to the future of Cam Newton, who could be let go as a part of the team’s rebuilding efforts.

Rhule, 44, is now the fifth coach in franchise history, following Rivera, John FoxGeorge Seifert, and Dom Capers.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants To Consider Jason Garrett

The Giants will consider former Cowboys coach Jason Garrett for their head coaching vacancy, according to Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. However, their longtime rival is viewed as a Plan B – he’ll only be in the picture if things go sour with Baylor’s Matt Rhule, their apparent top choice.

Garrett spent nearly ten years as the Cowboys’ head coach and, hands down, has Rhule beat in the NFL experience department. Rhule has just one year of pro experience – his 2012 season as an assistant offensive line coach with Baylor.

Still, teams have been swooning over Rhule in recent years. Last year, Rhule shot down the other tenant of the Meadowlands, but the Giants job could hold greater appeal for him, especially if they’re willing to let him hire his own staff.

It’s not a given that Rhule will get the Giants job, even though he’s the leader of the pack. Barriers include Rhule’s pricey buyout from Baylor, which is believed to be more than $15MM. On the flip side – it’s possible that he could be had on a lower salary than someone like Garrett.

Between 2010 and 2019, Garrett coached the Cowboys to an 85-67 record and three NFC East titles. But, during that span, the Cowboys did not advance beyond the divisional round.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Coaching Notes: McDaniels, Cowboys, Rhule

Two years ago, Josh McDaniels had assistants ready to follow him to the Colts. Multiple staffers did so, even though the Patriots assistant backed out of the agreement. This time around, McDaniels looks to have a staff lined up again. McDaniels is now “very much ready” to leave New England, Albert Breer of SI.com notes, adding that the longtime Patriots play-caller has Redskins OC Kevin O’Connell and Colts defensive backs coach Jonathan Gannon set to be key players on his staff (should McDaniels accept a job if offered). The Redskins are interested in retaining O’Connell, their offensive coordinator this season, but his NFL years began as a quarterback under McDaniels during the latter’s first stint as Patriots OC. Gannon joined the Colts’ staff in 2018. Like McDaniels, Gannon is a Cleveland-area native. He was a scout with the Rams during McDaniels’ one season in St. Louis.

McDaniels is the frontrunner for the Browns job. He will interview with the Panthers on Tuesday, the Giants on Wednesday and the Browns on Friday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Here is the latest from the coaching carousel:

  • Matt Rhule had issues with the Jets attempting to overrule him on staff decisions, but Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes the Giants would not do the same. The Giants would let Rhule select his assistants, and the Baylor HC is believed to have candidates in place to follow him to New York if hired. Former Giants assistant and current Lions QBs coach Sean Ryan and Baylor defensive coordinator Phil Snow are believed to be Rhule’s coordinator choices should he land either the Giants’ or Panthers’ HC jobs, Vacchiano reports. Ryan, 47, held a key role with the Texans from 2017-18 but was with the Giants for nine years, including in 2012, when Rhule was on staff. Snow, 64, has been Rhule’s DC at Temple and Baylor. He coached with the Lions from 2005-08.
  • Had the Jets hired Rhule last year, Jets management would have insisted Gregg Williams be attached as defensive coordinator, per Vacchiano. Previous GM Mike Maccagnan also had an issue with Ryan bringing brought aboard as OC. Ryan ended up in Detroit instead.
  • As for Giants incumbent defensive coordinator James Bettcher, the front office was not exactly pleased with his game management nor were Giants brass happy with the entire defensive staff, Vacchiano adds. Lacking in talent and depth at linebacker and cornerback, the Giants ranked 31st in pass-defense DVOA. Bettcher’s better-stocked defensive front, however, produced the No. 7 run-defense DVOA figure.
  • Not only is Mike McCarthy a fan of 30-year-old Cowboys OC Kellen Moore, Jerry Jones spoke of his desire to keep the young coordinator on staff in each of the Cowboys’ interviews, Breer notes. The Cowboys promoted Moore to OC last year, and Dak Prescott had by far his best season as a passer under the former Dallas quarterback’s guidance.
  • The Falcons will not retain passing-game coordinator/defensive backs coach Jerome Henderson, according to The Athletic’s Jason Butt (on Twitter). Henderson has been with the Falcons since 2016. Additionally, the Falcons interviewed Joe Whitt for their secondary coach position, Butt notes. Whitt spent the 2007 season as Atlanta’s assistant DBs coach before being on Green Bay’s staff for the next 10 seasons. He coached the Browns’ DBs under Freddie Kitchens.

Coaching Rumors: Panthers, Rhule, McDaniels

The latest from around the NFL:

  • Saints assistant Mike Nolan is a name to watch as new Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy searches for his next defensive coordinator, Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) hears.
  • The Panthers‘ interview with Vikings offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski will take place in Minneapolis on Thursday, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) reports. The Browns could also schedule a chat with Stefanski for that same day. During Stefanski’s first full season at the helm, the Vikings ranked as a top-10 offense in points. With Stefanski on the sidelines, the Vikings also managed a 26-20 win over the Saints on Sunday to advance to the divisional round.
  • The Giants‘ interview with Baylor head coach Matt Rhule has been scheduled for Tuesday, Schefter hears. After that, they’ll meet with Patriots OC Josh McDaniels on Wednesday. Both interviews will take place in New Jersey.
  • At least 4 NFL teams have expressed interest in former Giants head coach Pat Shurmur as an offensive coordinator, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) hears. Shurmur has also heard from “a college team or two.” Shurmur was fired by the Giants after amassing a 9-23 record over the course of two disappointing seasons.