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5 Candidates to Replace Matt Rhule in Carolina

Lesie Frazier Von Miller

After firing Matt Rhule on Monday, the Carolina Panthers became the first NFL team this season with a head coach opening. The timing of the dismissal gives Panthers owner David Tepper an advantage because now he can start gathering research on candidates he will interview for the job.

The first order of business for Tepper will be deciding what he is looking for in a head coach. He also has to look deep inside the organization and determine why Rhule failed. In my 30 years of NFL experience, a successful head coach needs to be:

  • A leader of people
  • A communicator
  • A developer of young talent
  • Someone who can manage game-day decisions (go for it or punt, time-management, etc.)

I would never hire a head coach just because he is a great play-caller or a tremendous tactician. The job is much bigger than that; those are qualities you want in your assistant coaches.

I would want to know, when things go sideways, can he fix the problems? If your offense has been poor for several weeks, can your head coach figure out why and fix the issues?

I would not limit my search to just an offensive coach or quarterback guru. My list of candidates would come from both sides of the ball — with a college coach and a special teams coach thrown in the mix— and all would need to be leaders and highly competent football men.

With that said, here are five names, in alphabetical order, I would have on my short list of candidates (and ones the Panthers should be considering, too):

Matt Campbell, HC, Iowa State

At one time, Iowa State was a hopeless program with a top coaching job nobody wanted. Campbell, who is extremely organized and highly intelligent, has changed the culture in Ames. He comes from a background of winning, growing up in the football hotbed of Massillon, Ohio, and playing his college years at Mount Union, winning three D-III national championships. The Panthers will probably want to stay away from a college coach, given they plucked Rhule from Baylor, but I would still consider Campbell.

Leslie Frazier, DC, Buffalo Bills

If any coach deserves another chance to lead a team, it's Leslie Frazier, who compiled a 21-32 record with the Minnesota Vikings from 2010-2013. Frazier has a brilliant football mind and understands how to relate to players at all levels. Simply put: he is a leader of men. Frazier can attack a problem and come up with answers to fix it.

Byron Leftwich, OC, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

When Leftwich was coming out of Marshall for the draft, I interviewed him at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. In my entire career, his was the best interview I had ever conducted. Leftwich has a natural charisma and leadership. He's not flashy, but he could be the Ozzie Newsome of coaches — common-sense approach and a man that tells the truth.

Jerod Mayo, LB Coach, New England Patriots

By all accounts Mayo is a football junkie who has learned from the best his entire career, as a player and coach. Owners might be reluctant to hire a defensive coach who has never been a coordinator, but being a head coach is much more than just calling plays. Mayo is a man I would certainly want to speak with for any opening.

Darrin Simmons, Special Teams, Cincinnati Bengals

Being a special teams coach, Simmons has to communicate and interact with players on both sides of the ball and has to understand the big picture of a game-day operations. He has been with the Bengals for 19 years, and in 2021 his special teams units were a big reason Cincinnati got to the Super Bowl. Simmons has an outstanding football mind, and the Panthers should certainly take a look at him.

WATCH MORE: What's Next for Matt Rhule, Panthers?