The Carolina Panthers hired a head coach directly from the college football ranks for the first time in their history. Former Baylor coach Matt Ruhle has signed a seven-year contract that starts with a $60 million value that could increase up to a whopping $70 million through performance-based escalators.
Matt Ruhle grew up as a smashmouth style coach but was able to successfully pivot to the run/pass option (RPO) at Baylor. He utilizes that offensive mindset to play physical and run the ball while providing players a chance to hit on big plays.
Like any new head coach, there are plenty of questions. Who will be the Panthers starting quarterback in 2020? Do the Panthers have the weapons to play this type of offense? What kind of fantasy impact will Matt Rhule have for the Panthers? The answers to those questions, and a whole lot more will be answered and confirmed.
His Collegiate Coaching Career
The Panthers hope Rhule can rebuild the team with a similar success that he exhibited in Baylor. Ruhle led Baylor to an 11-3 record this season after the team went 1-11 the previous two seasons. The Bears became the third team in FBS history to begin a season 7-0 within two seasons of starting 0-7.
He also pulled a comparable turnaround at Temple after joining the Owls in 2013. In his first season, he went 2-10, but in his third season in 2015, the team finished with a school-record ten wins.
Rhule was one of the most coveted potential hires in this year’s coaching carousel. He refused an interview with the Cleveland Browns in December. With Rhule initially planning to interview with the New York Giants as well, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper made an offer that Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch wouldn’t match
Who will be the Panthers starting QB in 2020?
The elephant in the Panthers locker room is what are they going to do with Cam Newton? Newton has spent his whole career with the Panthers, but last season ended abruptly after playing two games in 2019.
Newton underwent surgery to repair a Lisfranc injury that effectively ended his season. While his recovery has been promising, does he fit the scheme?
They appear to be ready to trade Cam Newton and start anew, likely grabbing a free agent and a draft pick. The Panthers suffered a down season in 2019, posting a 5-11 record and earning the seventh pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In the latest PFN Mock Draft, by Ryan Rosko, the Carolina Panthers find Newton’s successor by choosing Oregon QB Justin Herbert with their seventh pick. At the draft slot, the Panthers could easily select their quarterback of the future, because it is not on their current roster.
When backup quarterback Kyle Allen took over after Newton’s injury, he was on fire early, but that fizzled quickly. Allen showed the inability to make the right decisions with the football while under pressure and fumbled the fourth-most times of any player this season. Third-round rookie Will Grier struggled to a great extent in his starts the final two weeks of the 2019 season.
Newton has probably played his final game in a Panther uniform. Most importantly, releasing Newton could save the team $19 million in cap space, per Over The Cap.
How will Matt Rhule impact fantasy weapons in Carolina?
Rhule has an offensive background, something the Panthers made a priority after almost nine years with the defensive-minded Ron Rivera leading the team. He has embraced an analytic approach to coaching, and his deal with Panthers includes budget money to start a sports-science division with the team.
Regardless of what type of offense you are running, any option that includes all-world running back Christian McCaffrey is a fantasy weapon that Rhule has to be drooling over. In the 2019 season, McCaffrey became just one of just three players in NFL history to rack up 1,000 rushing and receiving yards in the same season.
Rhule’s is a big believer in the run/pass option and explains his offensive philosophy:
“Run-pass option has been my deal with the devil,” Rhule said at a coaching clinic last summer. “We won a couple games, but it wasn’t played the way I wanted it to be played. I want the game to look a certain way, with a certain brand. Run-pass option has been a bridge for me, a way to win. We want to be tough. We believe in full gear, weightlifting, the Oklahoma drill. All the people tell us to be careful about doing, I believe that’s exactly what we need to do.”
Carolina has around $30 million in available cap space at this point, and don’t be surprised if Ruhle doesn’t reach out to an old friend to join him in Carolina. While at Temple, Rhule coached Robby Anderson, who he believed in and worked with to keep his focus on football.
Anderson is a pending free agent and confirmed that he would test the market this March. Rhule has the inside track on landing Anderson and reuniting with his former college wideout.
Rhule and the Panthers already possess impactful fantasy weapons at wide receiver with DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel leading the team. Adding Anderson, a viable deep threat, to this set of receivers could be a fantasy jackpot for fantasy owners and for whoever is behind center in Carolina in 2020.
Rhule has minimal NFL experience. He spent one season as the offensive line coach with the New York Giants, where he won a Super Bowl in 2012.
The Panthers are hoping that Rhule can rebuild the Panthers back into playoff contenders. With talents on both sides of the ball, the Panthers have the foundation that they can build around.
Choosing the correct quarterback is paramount. IF Cam Newton is healthy, watch out. Newton will be a fantasy explosion in this type of offense. Newton may now be damaged goods, and the Panthers will look elsewhere to find the quarterback that can assist in making the fantasy options in Carolina sought-after commodities.
Matt Rhule will be a huge positive impact on the fantasy assets of the Panthers. He’s been successful everywhere else he has coached, and I believe he will be in Carolina.