Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper had finally seen enough. He fired coach Matt Rhule following a 1-4 start and an 11-27 record, a 28.9 winning percentage for the former Baylor and Temple head coach.
Besides the fact that Rhule didn’t win, he had recently not seen eye to eye with offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, per multiple league sources, with increasing communication issues. A league source denied that was the case.
Regardless, the issues ran much deeper as Rhule’s coaching style and success at the collegiate level didn’t translate at the NFL level. There was a lot of talk around the league about whether Rhule’s style was resonating in the locker room beyond players who played for him in college.
That wasn’t the determining factor in his dismissal, though, per a source. It was a pattern of losing and not being competitive on a consistent basis.
The Panthers fired defensive coordinator Phil Snow and assistant special teams coach Ed Foley, per a league source, and are promoting assistant head coach-defense Al Holcomb to the defensive coordinator role.
Who Will Be the Interim Head Coach of the Panthers?
Rhule has been replaced by defensive pass game coordinator-secondary coach Steve Wilks. Wilks was a head coach for one season for the Arizona Cardinals before being fired. Wilks will have an opportunity as interim head coach to be a candidate for the permanent job, but Tepper will run a wide-ranging search.
That includes looking at established coaches with head coaching experience, like Sean Payton and Dan Quinn, as well as up-and-coming coaches, per league sources.
In the days leading up to Rhule’s dismissal, Pro Football Network spoke with multiple league sources who had predicted that Rhule would be fired before the end of the season if his pattern of losing continued.
“I’m expecting, and many others around the league expect Tepper to go with a proven head coach with significant NFL experience,” a league source said prior to Rhule’s dismissal. “That would mean looking at Sean Payton or Dan Quinn. Tepper has been patient, but patience only stretches so far. At some point, you have to win, and they haven’t won nearly enough games.
“Of course, it doesn’t help the situation that Baker Mayfield hasn’t played very well. Rhule is in a tough spot and I don’t see how he can fix the situation. It feels pretty inevitable from everything I’m hearing that he’ll eventually be fired.”
At 11-27, Rhule has the worst record among coaches with at least 20 games in the NFL. He has fewer wins than any coach installed since the beginning of the 2020 season.
Rhule was in the third year of his seven-year, $62 million contract. The investment did not work out at all for Tepper. Of course, it didn’t help the situation that Baker Mayfield has been erratic one year after the Sam Darnold experiment was a failure.
“They just can’t get the quarterback spot right in Carolina,” a source said. “Whether it was trading for Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield, nothing has worked out.”
Now, the Panthers are starting over again at the head coaching position. But they also don’t have their long-term answer at another pivotal spot – the quarterback.
Until they get both correct, there isn’t a lot of reason for optimism about a better future in Carolina.