Matt Rhule

Panthers Executive Leaving Organization

One of Matt Rhule‘s right-hand men is leaving the Panthers. Joseph Person of The Athletic reports (via Twitter) that vice president of football operations Sean Padden has left the organization “to pursue other opportunities.”

Padden had worked alongside Rhule since 1998 when the two were at Albright College (h/t to Charean Williams). The duo moved on to Temple starting in 2013, and they later joined Baylor, where Padden served as the Associate Athletic Director for Football Operations. When Rhule was hired as the Panthers new head coach in 2020, Padden soon followed.

The Panthers made another front office move today, promoting Mike Anderson to director of football operations. The executive had previously served as the Panthers assistant director of operations, and he’s been with the organization since 2010. He’ll be taking over the role previous held by Bryan Porter.

Fallout From Sam Darnold Trade: Panthers, Jets, Rhule, Draft, Bridgewater

Although the Panthers and Jets had discussed a Sam Darnold trade for a bit, the talks centering around a trade that became official Monday heated up last week. Joe Douglas and Scott Fitterer discussed Darnold at Ohio State’s pro day on March 30, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Other teams contacted the Jets on Darnold ahead of free agency, but during the time Douglas and Co. methodically evaluating this year’s draft-eligible quarterbacks, some would-be suitors moved on. By late last week, the Panthers were the last team left standing that would trade for Darnold, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com notes (video link). The Jets sought a package similar to the one the Cardinals received for fellow 2018 top-10 QB Josh Rosen, wanting a second-round pick and another mid-round pick or a player, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. (The Dolphins sent the 2019 No. 62 overall pick to the Cardinals for Rosen.) The Jets also proposed a pick-swap trade that would have sent Darnold and No. 23 to Carolina for No. 8, per Breer. The Panthers shut off that path but agreed to send a 2021 sixth, a 2022 second and a 2022 fourth for the former No. 3 overall pick. The Jets now have nine picks in Rounds 1 and 2 between this draft and next.

Here is more from the latest 2021 QB domino falling Monday:

  • Douglas pulled the trigger on a trade more than three weeks away from the draft and did so because Jets brass saw considerable downside in waiting for a better offer. The Jets did not want to lose out on the Panthers’ three-pick proposal, according to The Athletic’s Connor Hughes (Twitter links).
  • Perhaps paying customary lip service, Fitterer said (per Person, on Twitter) Monday the Darnold acquisition will not take the Panthers out of the quarterback mix at No. 8 overall. That pick, however, can now be used to help Darnold and accelerate the team’s rebuild. It could also be used as a trade chip. The quarterback-seeking Broncos hold pick No. 9, and at least one of the top five quarterbacks figures to remain on the board by then. A team keen on grabbing one of these QB prospects would seemingly be interested in jumping in front of Denver, should the Broncos stay at No. 9.
  • Teddy Bridgewater looks likely to be a one-and-done as a Panther. As a starter, anyway. He could be off to team No. 5 soon. The Panthers will try to collect a mid-round pick for their 2020 starter, Person notes (subscription required). But they have been trying to unload Bridgewater for weeks, Breer adds. Bridgewater is set to carry a $17MM cap number in 2021, and unless a Case Keenum– or Nick Foles-type situation emerges in which Bridgewater agrees to redo his deal to facilitate a trade, the Panthers will have a difficult time unloading that contract.
  • A virtual Darnold-Matt Rhule conversation played a role in Monday’s trade. When the Jets interviewed Rhule for their HC job in 2019, he spoke with Darnold. Rhule came away impressed with the quarterback, and Rapoport notes that meeting came into play when Rhule approved this trade (video link).

Matt Rhule To Control Panthers’ Roster

The Panthers ended their expansive GM search by hiring longtime Seahawks executive Scott Fitterer. While this will be a key jump for the veteran personnel man, he will transition from one organization where the head coach has considerable power to another.

Matt Rhule confirmed he will have control of Carolina’s roster, though the second-year HC indicated Fitterer will obviously have tremendous responsibilities in this area as well.

I think in terms of on the contract, a lot of those things probably rest with me,” Rhule said, via Darin Gantt of Panthers.com. “But that’s not something I’m real interested in. I think it’s kind of a formality. Scott’s here to run the personnel. He’s here to build the roster. He’s here to establish the draft process. I think some things are written into the contract, but I think we’re going to work collaboratively and work together.”

Fitterer likened this situation as a Seahawks-esque partnership, where Pete Carroll and John Schneider work in tandem. Though Carroll maintains final say, which led to the Lions considering a Schneider pursuit earlier this year.

In the beginning, Pete was really in charge. But through no egos and the collaboration and the trust and the deep conversations they’ve had, Pete has opened up, and it’s really a partnership. It’s really a marriage between the two, and I’ve never seen an argument between them,” Fitterer said.

They can challenge each other; they can have discussions. But in the end, they’ve always been in lockstep, and I think that’s important for a GM and a coach to have. That’s what I think it’s going to be like here. Matt’s been great so far, and it’s only going to grow from here.”

Panthers owner David Tepper indicated he sought an experienced exec who could help Rhule while he acclimates to the NFL. Fitterer having worked with Carroll as he transitioned back to the pro game was a factor in the hire as well, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. The Panthers gave Rhule a seven-year, $63MM deal in 2020, so it certainly makes sense they will entrust him with their biggest decisions.

Fitterer stopped short of committing to Teddy Bridgewater as the Panthers’ 2021 starter, though the new GM was not specific regarding many players. Fitterer did say he sought a quarterback “who could win with the game on the line in the fourth quarter,” and as ESPN.com’s David Newton points out, Bridgewater was 0-8 in games in which he had a go-ahead or game-tying drive chance on the final possession.

The Panthers are set to make a run at Deshaun Watson, if the Texans make him available. They also have the No. 7 overall pick, putting them in position to draft Bridgewater’s eventual successor.

Trade-downs may well be coming to the Panthers soon. The Seahawks have consistently used their late-first-round draft perches to move down and accumulate capital. Fitterer said a line of demarcation between drafts’ top-tier and second-tier prospects usually falls around picks 16-18 and that there are not major talent disparities between players who fall between Nos. 25-40 on respective big boards (Twitter link via Person). This approach, which will not apply this year considering the Panthers pick seventh, will come not long after the franchise went five drafts (2013-17) without ever trading down under Dave Gettleman.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

GM Notes: Colbert, Patriots, Panthers, Rhule, Bears, Pace

We brought you a new batch of coaching notes earlier, and now we’ve got a new collection of front office bullets to pass along as the Browns and Steelers wrap up wild card weekend:

  • Let’s start with the Steelers, who could be in danger of losing their GM this offseason. We heard last week that the Lions were going to pursue Kevin Colbert, and Jason La Canfora tweets their interest in making that happen is still “very real.” While La Canfora’s sources don’t think Colbert would actually make the jump, he says the Lions “continue to gather info and strategize on how to possibly lure him.” Colbert, in the midst of his 21st season in Pittsburgh, has also flirted with retirement recently. Perhaps a first-round exit at the hands of the Browns could convince him to jump ship?
  • The Patriots just lost one key exec when Nick Caserio got hired by the Texans, and fortunately for them it doesn’t look like they’ll lose another. Dave Ziegler has pulled himself out of contention for the Broncos’ GM job, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweets. Rapsheet writes that the “organization has committed to Ziegler’s future, and Ziegler has committed to” New England, so it sounds like the Pats gave him an extension and/or raise to stay.
  • There was another big withdrawal on Sunday, as Colts assistant GM Ed Dodds removed himself from the Panthers’ search, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets. He had interviewed for the job last week. Dodds declined an interview request from the Browns back in January, so he appears to be waiting for the right opportunity to leave Indy.
  • Meanwhile as the Panthers’ search chugs along, they’ll take a look at a couple of internal candidates. Carolina will interview Director of Player Negotiations & Salary Cap Manager Samir Suleiman and Director of Player Personnel Pat Stewart for their GM vacancy (Twitter link via Joe Person of The Athletic). The Panthers are conducting an exhaustive search, so it’s possible these are just courtesy interviews.
  • One last note on the Panthers for now. No matter who they hire, it looks like it may be Matt Rhule who’s in charge at the end of the day. “Rhule will essentially be running the show in Carolina,” after they replace the fired Marty Hurney, a source told Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. That’s not all that surprising after owner David Tepper paid him a fortune to lure him from Baylor and Rhule earned strong marks for his first season with the Panthers, getting a bare-bones roster to fight hard and play a bunch of close games against good teams. Florio writes that whoever gets the gig “surely won’t get the job without Rhule’s agreement.” Rhule seems like a strong coach, but obviously these kind of arrangements can get dangerous, as we’ve seen with the Texans and Bill O’Brien.
  • Matt Nagy is going to be back with the Bears in 2021, but GM Ryan Pace’s future apparently isn’t entirely secure. Chicago could target Chiefs exec Mike Borgonzi this offseason, multiple sources told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. As Biggs points out, it would make sense for them to bring in someone familiar with Nagy if they’re going to change GMs but not coaches. Nagy, of course, coached in Kansas City under Andy Reid for a while. The Bears’ blowout loss to the Saints today certainly isn’t working in Pace’s favor, and the drafting of Mitchell Trubisky second overall never worked out. This will be an interesting situation to monitor this week.

QB Dwayne Haskins To Meet With Panthers

Dwayne Haskins will have his first visit since being unceremoniously cut by Washington last month. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that the former first-round quarterback will meet with the Panthers on Monday. We had previously heard of Carolina’s interest, but there was no word on potential visits.

Rapoport describes the meeting as “a fact-finding mission for both sides.” As Joe Person of The Athletic observes on Twitter, the timing is a bit interesting for the Panthers, as the team is currently operating without a general manager. While Matt Rhule previously said he doesn’t want control over personnel decisions, Person believes the head coach may be pushing for this move. Rhule has known Haskins since the quarterback was in high school, and Haskins’ college coach, Ryan Day, previously coached alongside Rhule at Temple.

Further, the Panthers have some question marks at quarterback, so the organization may simply be doing their homework on low-risk acquisitions (Rapoport notes that teams would “likely only pay Haskins the minimum”). Teddy Bridgewater didn’t complete his final appearance of the 2020 season, and Rhule declared that the veteran would need to have a “tremendous offseason” (via NFL.com’s Kevin Patra) in order to definitively retain his gig.

Before getting cut, Haskins was averaging 6.3 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 16 games and 13 starts for Washington. After getting waived, Haskins mutually parted ways with agent David Mulugheta, and he’s since caught on with Goal Line Football agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule says Christian McCaffrey remains week-to-week with an injured shoulder. But, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter) hears that he’s pretty unlikely to play this week against the Vikings.

McCaffrey has barely been on the field this year, thanks to his injured shoulder and his previous ankle issue. Up until 2020, CMC had perfect attendance for the Panthers. With the playoffs likely out of reach, the Panthers’ decision on McCaffrey’s status will involve more than just his present condition. The star running back — recently signed to a whopping four-year, $64MM extension – could theoretically be held out with an eye on next year. The Panthers haven’t addressed such a scenario on record, however.

Mike Davis has done a solid job in McCaffrey’s stead, averaging 4.0 yards per carry on the year. His last outing — 64 yards on 19 carries — was less productive than usual, but the Panthers still cruised past the Lions by a score of 20-0, thanks in part to Davis’ early one-yard touchdown.

The Panthers have a Week 13 bye coming up, which could allow for CMC to return on Dec. 13 vs. the Broncos.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers Notes: Newton, GM, Rebuild

While the Panthers and Cam Newton are clearly parting ways, Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports the team may have been open to a reunion. A source tells Fowler that Carolina was open to bringing Newton back for the 2020 season, but was unwilling to extend his contract, something they expected him to want. Instead, the team signed free-agent quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $60MM contract that gives them a proven starter with long-term flexibility.

Here are some more notes from around the Panthers organization:

  • The assistant general manager hire in Carolina may have higher stakes than usual. Per Joseph Person of The Athletic, whoever is hired will be the successor to current general manager Marty Hurney (who extends back to the Ron Rivera regime). The Panthers, of course, moved on from Rivera this offseason and hired Baylor head coach Matt Rhule. Rhule will obviously have a lot of input on who becomes the assistant general manager as that will soon be his primary partner in player personnel decisions.
  • There does seem to be some uncertainty surrounding the short-term plan in Carolina. Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports reports the front office has changed its tune away from a full rebuild towards a “mixed reboot.” Robinson notes that around the scouting combine the team had seemed to suggest that all players were available in trades, but that tone has, at least on the surface, shifted. Granted, Rhule could want to wait until they hire an assistant general manager.

NFC Coaching Turner, Peetz, Linguist, Harris,Whitted

Norv Turner will not be returning to the Panthers coaching staff, according to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Turner had served as a special assistant to former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera, of course, was recently replaced by Matt Rhule and has since taken over in Washington. While nothing has been reported, it would not be a surprise to see Turner follow Rivera to the nation’s capital to work with young quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

At the same time, Carolina blocked running backs coach Jake Peetz from interviewing for other positions, per Albert Breer of SI.com. Breer adds that Rivera wanted to take Peetz with him, but Carolina general manager Marty Hurney valued Peetz and the team decided to reward him with a promotion to quarterbacks coach.

Here’s some more notes from coaching staff’s around the NFC:

  • The Cowboys hired Texas A&M cornerbacks coach Maurice Linguist to serve as the team’s defensive backs coach alongside Al Harris. Linguist did not have a history with either head coach Mike McCarthy or defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, but his personality impressed the pair so much that they offered him the job on the same day of his interview, according to Dallas Cowboys reporter Lindsay Cash Draper. Harris had been an assistant with Kansas City, but more notably, played under McCarthy during his tenure in Green Bay at cornerback.
  • Harris’ former team will be making a change at wide receivers coach. According Rob Demovsky of ESPN, the Packers have let Alvis Whitted go and have begun the process of searching for his replacement. Whitted was hired just a year ago to join Matt LaFleur’s staff, but it appears LaFleur will be going in a different direction.

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.