Every week throughout the season, we’ll be bringing you the latest NFL news and rumors here in the PFN Insider Notebook. Today, we provide the latest updates on the Carolina Panthers and Matt Rhule, a potential succession plan in Kansas City, Christian McCaffrey’s status, Rondale Moore’s return, and more.
NFL News and Rumors Notebook: A proven head coach expected for eventual replacement in Carolina
Embattled Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule is under heavy scrutiny from owner David Tepper, and multiple league sources predict that he will be fired before the end of the season if his pattern of losing continues. No dismissal is regarded as imminent or developing at this time, but patience is growing thin from ownership, according to league sources.
What’s the big-picture plan for Tepper?
Should the Panthers owner ultimately move on from Rhule, he’s expected to seek an experienced former head coach as his eventual replacement.
“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. “That would mean looking at Sean Payton or a 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.”
Rhule’s start to the 2022 season
Rhule is off to a 1-2 start following a win over the New Orleans Saints and is 11-25 with 5-12 and 5-11 seasons under his belt since Tepper hired the former Baylor coach. At 11-25, 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 is in the third year of his seven-year, $62 million contract. The investment has not worked out at all so far for Tepper.
“I think the key is to try to be the same guy every day, so I challenged them to have the same intensity about improving that they had last week at 0-2,” Rhule said this week after beating the Saints. “That is the key to being great. It’s come in every week, see what we did well, see we what we did not do well, and improve.
“I do hope that they feel validated that we know that we are a good team. We can play with good teams. We’ve played three games. They’ve all come down to the wire.”
Panthers wide receiver Robbie Anderson defended Rhule, his former coach at Temple.
“People like to find somebody to blame for things, and he’s at the top of the chart,” Anderson said. “So that’s just what comes with his position, his job. But he’s doing what he needs to do.”
Acquired in a trade from the Cleveland Browns, the former top overall pick from Oklahoma has been sacked nine times, has completed just 51.9% of his throws, and has passed for 550 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. Mayfield has an 80.8 passer rating and looks out of sync with his wide receivers.
Frequently inaccurate, Mayfield is averaging just 5.38 yards per attempt.
“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.”
Mayfield acknowledged that things haven’t run as smoothly as he’d hoped early in his tenure with the Panthers, saying: “I know there is going to be bumps in the road, but I expect to be a whole lot better than I have been so far.”
Christian McCaffrey not ruled out
Although Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey hasn’t practiced this week due to a quadriceps injury, league sources said that there’s still a strong chance that the high-volume contributor will play Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
McCaffrey has a history of durability issues, missing 23 of 33 games over the last two seasons.
During a win over the Saints, he rushed for 108 yards on 25 carries. He has 243 rushing yards this season and also leads the Panthers with 10 catches for 57 yards.
The Panthers have some depth at the position, including Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman, but both have been used sparingly this season. Hubbard has rushed for 28 yards on four carries this year, and Foreman has 14 yards on four carries.
“Obviously, I don’t have the answers for whether he’s going or not,” Mayfield told Carolina reporters. “Right now, I’m preparing like he is and will react later on.”
Mayfield said that McCaffrey hasn’t been forthcoming about his status.
“Nah, he’s gone ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ on us,” he said. “He’s keeping us guessing.”
Succession plan in Kansas City?
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid is one of the most successful head coaches in the NFL, with a regular-season record of 235-135-1 and a Super Bowl victory.
But what’s next for the Chiefs whenever the 64-year-old retires?
One league source predicted an eventual succession plan for the Chiefs involving senior assistant and quarterbacks coach Matt Nagy, the former Chicago Bears head coach, eventually succeeding Reid.
“Matt is someone that Andy has a lot of confidence in, and he’s highly respected by the entire organization,” a source said. “I could see this happening in a few more years. For now, Andy is all in with what he’s doing, and I don’t foresee a change during the offseason.”
Rondale Moore to return
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore is set to return from a pulled hamstring, giving a boost to an offense that has missed his presence. Meanwhile, there is concern about wide receiver A.J. Green potentially missing the game due to a knee injury, according to a league source. Green has not practiced this week.
Ever since Moore got hurt in practice, the hamstring injury he sustained has impacted the Cardinals’ offense. The Cardinals were already shorthanded in general at the wide receiver position with All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins suspended for the first six games of the season.
In the absence of Moore and Hopkins, wide receiver Greg Dortch has stepped up and provided a consistent downfield presence for quarterback Kyler Murray working in tandem with Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.
Hard luck for Chargers, slow start for running game
The Los Angeles Chargers have experienced more hard luck. They’ve lost offensive tackle Rashawn Slater for the entire season due to a ruptured biceps tendon. Additionally, standout defensive end Joey Bosa has been placed on injured reserve with a groin injury with the possibility to return later this season.
“Yeah, it’s part of the NFL,” Chargers coach Brandon Staley said during a conference call. “This is not uncommon to the league. Last year, we had to replace our right tackle and right guard in the first weeks of the season and had a very productive season.
“What you have to do is build a team that can absorb things like this. That’s what we try to do, is position ourselves to absorb these types of injuries. We’re excited to prove ourselves and adjust moving forward.”
Meanwhile, the Chargers are trying to fix a running game stuck in neutral. The Chargers are averaging just 59 rushing yards per game and rank last season in the NFL in rushing offense. They ran the football just 12 times and rushed for 26 yards in a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
They’re averaging just 2.6 yards per carry despite the presence of proven veteran RB Austin Ekeler. There have been very few holes for Ekeler to run through, and he has primarily been utilized as a receiver out of the backfield as he leads the team with 21 catches and 22 targets.
“We’re just at the beginning of the season,” Staley said. “We need to play together. We’ve had our center, Corey Linsley, out. He really runs the show for us. We need to play more together and find our rhythm. At the beginning of the season, it’s a discovery process. We definitely need to run it at a higher level. That’s for sure.”