10 Candidates To Replace Matt Rhule as Carolina Panthers Head Coach

Now that the Carolina Panthers have fired head coach Matt Rhule, which NFL assistants could they identify as potential replacements?

After two-plus seasons of disappointment, the Carolina Panthers have fired head coach Matt Rhule. The former Baylor and Temple HC signed a seven-year, $60 million deal before the 2020 campaign. But despite high hopes, Rhule posted a ghastly 11-27 record and failed to create a workable offensive environment.

Steve Wilks, Carolina’s defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach, will take over as the Panthers’ interim head coach, and he’ll have a chance to impress over the rest of the season. Which other NFL assistants could emerge as Panthers’ head coach candidates as they eventually expand their search?

Best Candidates To Replace Matt Rhule as Carolina Panthers Head Coach

By parting ways with Rhule now, the Panthers are getting a headstart on the 2023 head coaching circuit. They’ll be able to take their time and evaluate which coaches are the best fits from a cultural, leadership, and schematic perspective.

Here are the top candidates Carolina could look at now that Rhule is gone.

Sean Payton, Free Agent

Payton has everything Panthers owner David Tepper is likely looking for: a proven track record, a history of scheming excellent offenses, and a Super Bowl trophy. Carolina has essentially devolved into one of the laughingstocks of the NFL. There’d be no quicker way for Tepper to revitalize his team’s image than by hiring an icon like Payton.

DeMeco Ryans, DC, San Francisco 49ers

The Panthers got an up-close-and-personal look at the 49ers defense that Ryans has cultivated on Sunday when San Francisco shut down Carolina’s offense en route to a 37-15 victory. Ryans seamlessly took over the 49ers’ defense from Robert Saleh two years ago, and he’s arguably turned it into a more productive unit. Imagining Brian Burns in a Ryans-led defense should be illegal.

MORE: Week 6 NFL Power Rankings

Dan Quinn, DC, Dallas Cowboys

Quinn’s Cowboys defense hasn’t shown any signs of regression in 2022, and Micah Parsons is the frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year. Once pigeonholed as a product of the Seahawks’ defensive system, Quinn has shown remarkable creativity and adaptability since arriving in Dallas. He’ll almost surely be a head coach in 2023, and the Panthers will value his previous head coaching experience.

Leslie Frazier, DC, Buffalo Bills

Frazier also has a head coaching track record. While his run in Minnesota wasn’t as successful as Quinn’s in Atlanta, the Bills’ DC has absolutely crushed it since taking over Buffalo’s defense. He’s kept things steady even as injuries have ravaged the Bills’ secondary. Frazier is 63 years old, and ageism exists in the NFL, so the Panthers may want to start fresh with a younger coach.

Eric Bieniemy, OC, Kansas City Chiefs

Bieniemy has been one of the hottest candidates on the head coaching circuit in recent years, but he hasn’t yet landed a job. In 2021, every team with a vacancy either met with or expressed interest in the Chiefs OC, and Bieniemy interviewed with the Saints and Broncos last offseason. Carolina will be searching for a new quarterback, so hiring the man who helped develop Patrick Mahomes wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Mike Kafka, OC, New York Giants

If the 4-1 Giants continue their run of success, their coaching staff will start to garner interest around the league — and Kafka is chief among that group. New York’s offense is not particularly loaded with talent, making Kafka and Brian Daboll’s performances all the more impressive. Kafka could sell himself as a product of the Andy Reid and Daboll spheres of influence.

MORE: Are the Giants For Real?

Ken Dorsey, OC, Buffalo Bills

Dorsey took over for Daboll as the Bills’ offensive coordinator this season, and he’s kept Josh Allen and Co. at the top of the statistical leaderboards. No team is scoring more points or averaging more yards per play than Buffalo. This is Dorsey’s first season calling plays at any level, but he’s been in the NFL coaching ranks for a decade, including a run as Carolina’s QBs coach from 2013-17.

Shane Steichen, OC, Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles are the only undefeated team remaining in the NFL, so their assistants will be in demand. Steichen spearheaded Philadelphia’s transformation into a run-heavy philosophy in 2021, and he’s been instrumental in developing Jalen Hurts over the past two seasons. No play-caller has been more malleable than Steichen.

Jonathan Gannon, DC, Philadelphia Eagles

Gannon’s defense was roughly league-average in 2021, but he still garnered three head-coaching interviews after the season, indicating that he’s well-respected around the league. Now that the Eagles have added more defensive pieces, Gannon has experimented with more interesting concepts, and Philadelphia ranks seventh in defensive EPA per play.

Raheem Morris, DC, Los Angeles Rams

There may be no NFL coach with Morris’ wealth and breadth of experience. He became an NFL head coach at age 32, spent time on the offensive side of the ball, and coached at the collegiate level. Over the past two years, Morris has put his own spin on Brandon Staley’s Rams defense. He deserves another chance at a top job.

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