Pitiful Panthers

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule Monday morning. Carolina is off to a 1 – 4 start and lost to San Francisco 37 – 15 on Sunday.

Rhule is in his third season as the head coach in Charlotte. His overall record is 11 -27.

Under Rhule, the Panthers went 1-27 when allowing 17 or more points, including 25 losses in a row. Every other team has multiple such wins in that span.

This is less than six full months after owner David Tepper said it could take five, maybe six years to rebuild an organization capable of sustaining excellence and contending for championships.

Tepper in late April said: “I believe in Matt. He has my full support.”

“I’m a fan,” Tepper added that day. “I don’t like to lose. But it takes time and it takes a foundation, and it takes time to create the foundation to win. I do believe Coach Rhule and [general manager] Scott [Fitterer] have done a great job of creating that foundation.”

Rhule was a hot coaching candidate when he was hired for the job in January 2020. He rebuilt Baylor and Temple. He had his best seasons in his third year at both of those schools, winning at least ten games.

He had a seven-year, $62 million contract. Rhule is still owed more than $40 million.

He inherited Cam Newton, who was released in March 2020 as he rehabbed from foot surgery and an ailing shoulder that made him a shell of the player who won the NFL MVP Award in 2015.

The Panthers brought in Teddy Bridgewater, who was released one season after getting a three-year, $63 million deal. They then traded with the New York Jets for the 2018 third overall pick Sam Darnold, who had gone 13-25 as the starter in New York.

Carolina brought back Newton midway through the 2021 season, when Darnold suffered a shoulder injury, only to watch him go 0 – 5.

“That’s the most important position on the field,” Tepper said after the team moved on from Newton. “Unless you have that guy for sure that gets you to the playoffs and Super Bowls, you have to keep reevaluating that because that’s the only thing that matters is Super Bowls.”

“And until you have that guy, you’re evaluating, evaluating, evaluating every year.”

Rhule believed the roster was good enough to be competitive this season if they had solid quarterback play.

Carolina was one of the finalists to trade with the Houston Texans for Deshaun Watson this past offseason. Once he chose Cleveland it made Baker Mayfield expendable. The Panthers traded for Baker in July.

The Baker Mayfield experiment has been a disaster so far. Mayfield hasn’t regained the form he had in 2020, when he led the Browns to an 11 – 5 record and playoff win, as he is putting up career lows in almost every statistical category.

Mayfield’s 16.5 QBR is the lowest among passers with at least three games in the NFL this season while he has completed a league-worst 54.9% of his passes and has committed five turnovers (four interceptions and a lost fumble).

Defensive pass game coordinator Steve Wilks was named the interim coach. Wilks, 53, was previously a head coach in the NFL with Arizona in 2018. He posted a 3 – 13 record and was fired following his first season.