Matt Rhule’s Panthers contract has them facing ‘clusterf–k’

The road the Giants did not take has led to a “clusterf–k” in Carolina.

Matt Rhule, who was considered the favorite for the Giants’ head-coaching job but never even made it to an interview because the Panthers swooped so quickly in January 2020, is expected back for a third season, according to an extensive piece in The Athletic. But he is facing increasing scrutiny as his plan has not worked the same way it did in college.

According to the report, Panthers owner David Tepper is unhappy and embarrassed after giving Rhule a seven-year, $62 million pact to thus far go 10-21.

The record is the same as Joe Judge’s in his Giants tenure, and their second seasons have been similar in their disappointment.

The Panthers have been free-falling since Sam Darnold led them to a 3-0 start, having lost 10 of their past 12 games while Darnold has regressed and been hurt. Cam Newton’s reunion has failed and Christian McCaffrey played in just seven games before he was lost for the season. The team’s step back throughout the campaign has been a “clusterf–k,” one Panthers source told The Athletic.

Panthers coach Matt Rhule
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Many of the reported complaints, voiced anonymously, stem from Rhule taking the same approach that helped him in college to the pros. In one anecdote, Rhule was upset when a player signed an autograph before a game. One Athletic source said he micromanages “everything that touches football” and has built his staff and roster using plenty of Temple and Baylor connections, programs he guided to prominence.

There are nine players from Temple and Baylor on the Panthers’ roster, including former Jet Robby Anderson and outside linebacker Haason Reddick.

One agent who reps multiple Panthers players told The Athletic that the team is “less meritocratic” than any team he has dealt with.

Rhule’s only pro experience prior to this gig was serving as the Giants’ assistant offensive line coach in 2012. No one on the staff Rhule put together had been an NFL head coach or coordinator, and his choice for offensive coordinator — Joe Brady — was fired in early December.

They had lost two straight before Brady was canned and have dropped three more — none particularly close — since Rhule fired him. After Darnold hurt his shoulder blade, Newton was brought back, but his initial magic has worn off. Darnold is now getting the job back, but only for evaluative reasons for a team out of the playoff race.

Rhule has pointed to the fact it took him three seasons to elevate Temple and Baylor, and the report states it is likely Tepper will give him a third.

But like Judge, the ground seems to be shaky

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