The Panthers became one of a few 0-2 teams to respond with a Week 3 win. That likely extended Matt Rhule‘s leash, but the third-year Carolina HC is not out of the woods yet.
Rhule is under “heavy scrutiny” from David Tepper, and the franchise’s fifth-year owner is losing patience with the former successful college coach, Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com notes. As we heard last weekend, no firing is imminent. Rhule (11-25 in two-plus seasons) remains tied to a seven-year, $62MM contract he signed in 2020.
The Panthers also have a plus-3 point differential this season, which has seen them lose on 56- and 58-yard game-winning field goals. But the odds are against the former Temple and Baylor HC making it to the 2023 season in Carolina.
After the Panthers shelled out a monster contract for an unproven NFL coach, many around the league expect Tepper to replace Rhule with an experienced option, Wilson adds. The Panthers would be in the market for a retread, a route this franchise has taken just once (George Seifert) in its history. Five of the 10 teams with coaching vacancies went with second-chance options this year as well. Cowboys DC Dan Quinn, Bills DC Leslie Frazier, Steelers linebackers coach Brian Flores (his lawsuit notwithstanding) and Jim Caldwell were retread options to take multiple interviews this offseason but not land jobs.
This is a similar path to the one the Panthers traversed when identifying their 2022 offensive coordinator, with former head coach Ben McAdoo landing the gig. Unfortunately, Carolina’s offense is what has held Rhule back. The defensive coordinator Rhule brought with him from the college ranks, Phil Snow, oversaw last season’s second-ranked (yardage-wise) unit. And the team’s Week 3 turnover spree led to the win over the Saints. Offensively, the Panthers have yet to see much from Baker Mayfield, who is thus far continuing the Rhule-era run of unsatisfactory quarterback play.
Rhule’s inability to properly staff the QB spot is not for lack of trying; the team was linked to Deshaun Watson in 2021 and was a finalist for the embattled passer this year. But the trades for Mayfield and Sam Darnold and the Teddy Bridgewater free agency accord have not worked out. Though, Mayfield has only played three games. The former Browns starter will enter Week 4 last in QBR. Should Rhule be canned during the season, he would undoubtedly be a coveted option for college programs seeking an upgrade.