Carolina Panthers Fire Matt Rhule; Wilks Named Interim HC

Matt Rhule

The Carolina Panthers fired coach Matt Rhule on Monday, the team announced. The move comes after the Panthers’ 37-15 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, dropping Carolina to 1-4 on the season. The loss also dropped Rhule’s overall record to 11-27 in less than three full seasons. 

“I’m not sure about timing, but they clearly made the right longterm decision for this franchise,” said Joe Banner, former Eagles president. “It’s hard to explain why a coach with such a tremendous college record, at multiple schools where he inherited big problems, was so unsuccessful in the NFL.

“The one consistent we see in successful college coaches who fail in the NFL is the failure to hire a dynamic, progressive and aggressive group of assistants. Matt struggled with that from Day 1.”

The team’s defensive coordinator under Rhule, Phil Snow, has reportedly been fired as well.

Another one of Rhule’s assistants, former Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks, will serve as the team’s interim head coach, stepping up from his role as secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator. Wilks will do his best to get the team ready for its Week 6 matchup with the Rams in Los Angeles. 

“While the defense is young and improved, the lack of production at quarterback ultimately did him in,” said former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum. “Teddy Bridgewater, Cam Newton, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield, the Panthers simply didn’t get enough production at that position.”

The team’s most recent addition at quarterback, Baker Mayfield, got off to a disastrous start to the 2022 season. He is averaging a career-worst 192.4 yards passing per game on just 6.3 yards per attempt — also a career-low. 

The Panthers struggled at quarterback last season when they relied on Sam Darnold. In 11 starts, Darnold finished 4-7 and threw 13 interceptions compared to just nine touchdown passes while nearly matching his career-low in yards per attempt in the process.

Rhule was hired prior to the 2020 NFL season after turning around a Baylor Bears program that finished 11-1 in his final season with the team. Rhule also had a successful stint as head coach at Temple University. In 2016, his final year with Temple, he led the team to its first conference championship win in more than 40 years. There was a belief Rhule could turn the Panthers around the same way he had at both Temple and Baylor.

“This is another cautionary tale of a very successful college coach not transitioning to the NFL,” Tannenbaum said. “Though, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coach Rhule at a major Division I program in the coming months.”

Panthers’ owner David Tepper, who had recently purchased the team, gave Rhule an enormous contract worth up to $62 million over seven years in January 2020. Tepper will now have to eat a significant portion of Rhule’s contract after firing him less than three years in. The Panthers still owe Rhule more than 40 million dollars, ESPN Reported

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