Calling David Tepper – it’s time for the Matt Rhule era to end in Charlotte
In two years as the Panthers’ head man, Rhule has done next to nothing to remotely suggest he’s the right guy for the job
By Christian Horn
Generally, I try not to be overly harsh on new coaches early in their tenures. I understand rebuilding a team takes time, and it’s a process. However, this much appears abundantly clear to me after just two seasons of the Matt Rhule show in Charlotte – the man is simply not the right choice to spearhead Carolina’s rebuild.
Oh sure, I understand the logic in bringing him back for a third year. At the college level, Rhule did a good job in rebuilding Temple and then jumpstarting Baylor’s rise back to prominence after the Art Briles era ended in scandal. And like I said, I recognize rebuilds generally take time to come to fruition.
Yet in two seasons, I have not seen one positive indication that Rhule is the correct man to lead the Panthers’ rebuild.
Just take a look at the coaches who’ve been fired in the first week following the conclusion of the regular season. Rhule is a whopping 0-6 against those coaches. That’s right, he is winless in six chances against coaches who underperformed so much this season, they lost their jobs as a result.
Over the past two seasons, Rhule has lost to coaching geniuses like Brian Flores, Matt Nagy, Mike Zimmer (twice), Vic Fangio and Joe Judge. Yes, Judge – the mastermind who orchestrated a QB sneak on third and long from his own four and swore that free agents were constantly calling him, begging for Judge to sign them so they could play for him – coached circles around Rhule in a 25-3 blowout this season. Yikes.
Then there’s the minor problem that Rhule appears to not know how to evaluate talent. It’s true that atrocious quarterback play and an even worse showing from the offensive line were major issues for the Panthers this year, and one might think not all of that blame could possibly fall on Rhule.
However, Rhule is directly responsible for the disaster that is Carolina’s quarterback room. He cut Cam Newton shortly upon his arrival in Charlotte and replaced him with Teddy Bridgewater, only to trade him for a sixth round pick after one season and ship three draft picks to the Jets for Sam Darnold. Then, when Darnold played terribly and got hurt, the Panthers re-signed Newton to fill in.
Neither Newton nor Darnold are long-term solutions and the lack of a franchise cornerstone at the position are problems, yes, but how could anyone trust Rhule to correctly identify a franchise quarterback when he’s bungled the position so terribly during his first two seasons?
And the piss-poor offensive line is not entirely on Rhule because it’s been awful for several years now, but the Panthers’ head man has done little to fix the situation.
We know Rhule carries the most weight in the football offices – more than the general manager, for sure – because a draft day “Panthers Confidential” video appeared to show him calling the shots and Rhule himself admitted the only reason Carolina drafted running back Chuba Hubbard was his wife wanted him to.
Yet Carolina did not draft an offensive lineman until the third round of Rhule’s second draft. Then, instead of letting that draft pick – Brady Christensen out of BYU – play and develop, Rhule instead refused to play him for much of the year and moved him back and forth along many positions on the line like he was shuffling a deck of cards.
Then came Thursday, when Rhule attempted to defend not addressing offensive line in the first round during an interview. In it, he claimed that left tackle Rashawn Slater, who ultimately went to the Chargers in the middle of the round, was not the “ideal tackle size” and the Panthers weren’t going to “take a guard that high.”
All Slater did was turn in a good rookie year, logging 1,116 snaps while allowing just four sacks and six penalties and earning an 83.7 Pro Football Focus grade, so nothing too major.
Again I ask – if I don’t trust Rhule’s ability to successfully evaluate talent, how am I supposed to have faith that he’s the right man to build this roster and turn the franchise around?
More than in-game decisions or talent evaluation, however, my biggest gripe with Rhule is that in two seasons, he’s shown exactly two skills. One is burning unnecessary timeouts during the first quarter of games for no reason at all. The other is displaying an uncanny ability to deflect blame and avoid taking any and all responsibility for his mistakes.
There are too many examples of this during his press conferences to count, but arguably the most notable came when he criticized Newton for his poor play in a loss, saying the quarterback simply couldn’t turn the ball over twice despite shoddy protection from the terrible offensive line giving Cam no help whatsoever.
Yet when the roles were reversed and it was Darnold – who Rhule dealt three draft picks for, remember – turning the ball over multiple times instead, suddenly the blame shifted from the quarterback’s ability to hang onto the ball to the general ineptitude of the offensive line.
Worse yet, deflecting blame appears to be a trait Rhule has passed down to his players. After Carolina allowed seven sacks for the second consecutive week in a loss to New Orleans a couple weeks ago, offensive lineman John Miller was asked about it. His response? “It’s the NFL … sacks happen.”
Incredible culture you’re building there in Charlotte, Matthew. No respect, no accountability, no desire to improve. A-plus, fantastic job, gold stars for everyone.
I know Rhule’s only been the head coach for two seasons, but those two years have shown me more than enough to convince me he isn’t the man for the job and is in over his head at the NFL level. Once that becomes obvious, there’s really only one thing left to do – pull the plug on the Matt Rhule era.
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