The Panthers moved on from Ron Rivera after nine years, so it figured they’d be looking for a fresh voice after piling up three losing seasons in the last four years. They certainly leaned into the fresh part of that, per reports, hiring Baylor head coach Matt Rhule for their vacancy.
Where teams like Washington and Dallas went with the stabilizing forces provided by established head coaches Ron Rivera (hey, him again) and Mike McCarthy, the Panthers are keen to build a different sort of outfit. Owner David Tepper wants to preside over an organization that uses analytics extensively and has a strong culture, and in Rhule he’s evidently getting someone he believes is an excellent fit in both areas.
Sources: Baylor coach Matt Rhule finalizing a deal to become next coach of the Carolina Panthers.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) January 7, 2020
Rhule, 44, just capped off a season in which Baylor went 11-3 and lost the Sugar Bowl. His Baylor and Temple teams have churned out some quality NFL players over the years, while Rhule himself has gained a reputation as a good coach and program builder with a bright offensive mind. In Carolina, he’ll be tasked with rebuilding an offense that basically had become the Christian McCaffrey show, as well as surrounding himself with the kind of smart people who can get more out of a vaguely disappointing defense stuffed to the gills with defensive tackles.
It’s fair to say that this is a hire that comes with some risk attached. Rhule has been lauded for the work he did taking over Baylor’s program after Art Briles left in utter disgrace, and he has rebuilt a program that was abusive and awful in many ways. Before that, he did fine work with the Temple Owls as their head coach, and he now has been a head coach at the college level since 2013. For all that, he has just one year of NFL experience (he was an assistant line coach with the Giants in 2012), has just one stellar year with a major program, and is joining a team with some very big picture questions about its approach to team-building, quarterback situation, and more.
The Panthers, though, were tired of languishing in no man’s land, and were especially tired of sluggishly swooning their way through the second half of seasons. I’d doubt Rhule lifts this into an elite team right away, but in 2021 and beyond the Panthers should be expected to be a team on the rise if he lives up to his reputation. Carolina’s banking on it.