The Carolina Panthers are something of a disaster area. And I’m not sure that it is all the creation of Matt Rhule. General manager Scott Fitterer, who is still just feeling his way around, made the trades that brought Sam Darnold AND Baker Mayfield to Charlotte. But Rhule, who was not Fitterer’s guy, gets the ax.
Panthers minus coach and QB….. and it could get uglier
Rhule wasn’t David Tepper’s guy either, as it turned out. One thing you never want to hear an owner say about his team is that it lacked intensity because that is usually a reflection on the coach. And this was the case with last Sunday’s 37-15 defeat at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. Tepper essentially felt they stopped trying at some point.
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And so BetAnySports patrons will see the Panthers take the field under “new” leadership on Sunday as they tackle the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. They’ll go into the game as an 10.5-point underdog (total is 41 points) in the NFL betting odds.
Evidently there were also some personality issues with Rhule, stemming from his propensity to be a control freak. This has happened before with college coaches moving into the NFL; one example that comes readily to mind is Greg Schiano, who had trouble adjusting to players on the pro level, despite the fact that he had sent plenty of them into the league when he was coaching at Rutgers.
Rhule, who had great success at Temple and Baylor, created perhaps too much of a college atmosphere, hiring a lot of assistants from there (Phil Snow, the D-coordinator, has already been fired), and he seemingly wanted input in a number of areas that were not within the scope of his authority. This may be a bit surprising, considering he has at least spent some time in the league as an assistant.
So what happens now is this: he departs the scene and will be eligible for $40 million in pay that has been pledged to him over the course of his contract. And the team has elevated Steve Wilks, the secondary coach, to the top job. Wilks served one year as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals and won three games. So it’s not like this is an infusion of new ideas that have worked somewhere else. He was part of this regime, although there is almost no way to avoid that when a guy comes into the interim position.
But who really knows what was going on behind the scenes. It was no secret that Rhule was one of those guys who started the season on “the hot seat.” And he was everyone’s favorite to be the first coach to get fired (if you had that ticket, you cashed it). Tepper, one of the wealthiest owners in the NFL (and that’s saying something), is not known for his patience. And he didn’t get involved in this franchise to stay mediocre.
But that’s where they are, as Mayfield, who went into the game against the Niners 32nd in the league in passer rating, becomes the latest in a line of quarterbacks since the team’s Super Bowl season, including a return (and failed) performance by Cam Newton.
Personally, I thought it was a mistake to fire Joe Brady as offensive coordinator last December. Brady at least had some ideas, and he turned Joe Burrow into a Heisman winner. He had a soft landing, as he’s now the QB coach in Buffalo. Rhule’s had one too, if you consider the money he’s owed.
But here’s what’s invariably going to happen in Carolina: since this coaching move effectively declares this season to be over, the Panthers may now be looking for assets they can deal who have some value in the marketplace. Christian McCaffrey is the first guy who comes to mind. Surely others will follow. Somewhere, they have to find a quarterback who can provide some answers. i can’t imagine any of this having a positive effect on morale.
Mayfield is out with an ankle injury. So PJ Walker will get the start this week against the Los Angeles Rams. Walker has performed well in a couple of spring-summer leagues. But he’s in Carolina because he played for Rhule at Temple. So you’d have to wonder how long he’ll stick around.
In Walker’s brief NFL career he’s thrown two TD passes with eight interceptions, and his QB rating is 54.5. So suffice it to say that the Panthers will likely struggle mightily to score points. Taking the Rams’ offensive difficulties into account, and the fact that Carolina’s defense has put forth something of an effort thus far, I hear an “under” calling.
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