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Panthers Fire Matt Rhule: Why They Did it, What it Means, and What’s Next

Following Sunday’s loss, dropping the Panthers to 1-4 this season, the team decided to part ways with Matt Rhule. Steve Wilks is set to take over as interim head coach.

When Matt Rhule described the Carolina Panthers‘ rebuild in Dec. 2021, he told the team that it took Jay-Z seven years to become a sensation, the length of the contract he signed one year prior.

So much for that.

An ugly 11-27 tenure in three seasons led to the ousting of the Panthers’ head coach, the team announced on Monday. Defensive pass coordinator/secondary coach Steve Wilks will take over as their interim head coach.

Rhule had been on the hot seat from the start of the season and leaves the organization with a .289 win percentage, the fifth-worst mark in the NFL since 2020. The writing was already on the wall, and a 37-15 Week 5 loss to the 49ers was just the cherry on top of a pretty brutal tenure.

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To be fair, Rhule never really had a franchise QB since taking over. Carolina let go of Cam Newton, gave Teddy Bridgewater $63 million and current backup Sam Darnold $18 million, re-signed Newton, and then traded for Baker Mayfield ($4.85 million).

Ultimately, it doesn’t always matter who’s under center, though. It’s a coach’s job to figure it out and Rhule simply didn’t do that.

He does have something in common with Jay-Z, who said in U Don’t Know: “Put me anywhere on God’s green earth and I’ll triple my worth.” Rhule didn’t do that with his on-field success, but he’s much richer than he was before he got the job when he was paid roughly $4 million per year at Baylor.

Money Implications

Rhule left Baylor after seven years of head-coaching experience at the collegiate level, where he turned around two Division I programs in a short span of a time. He signed a seven-year, $62 million contract with Carolina, and while he was fired after only 38 games, the 47-year-old is still in line to cash out.

  • He was the seventh-highest-paid coach in the NFL by annual salary.
  • The Panthers owe him over $40 million over the next four years.
  • In addition to the $40 million, Carolina paid Baylor $6 million to hire him in the first place.
  • He’ll earn $834,000 per month for the next 48 months.
  • There’s a belief the team won’t have to pay all of it should he land a gig elsewhere.

Numbers Don’t Lie

… And boy, are they ugly.

  • 0-16 on game-winning drives.
  • 1-27 when allowing 17+ points.
  • 0-21 when allowing 21+ points.
  • The Panthers rank last in the league in yards per game this season (271.4).
  • Since the start of last season, they’re dead last in yards per play, third-down conversion percentage, and QBR.

What’s Next?

For Rhule: Expect him to find his way back into the college ranks. NFL Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Rhule had several opportunities last offseason for “big-time college jobs,” and ultimately turned them down to stay in Carolina. Now, he’ll likely be coveted after the season.

For Carolina: Rapoport reports that Sean Payton will likely be at the top of the list, but there’s a catch — the Saints still own Payton’s rights until 2024 and they play in the same division as the Panthers.

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About The Author
Anthony Puccio
Anthony Puccio
Anthony Puccio is a Staff Writer at Boardroom. Puccio has 10 years of experience in journalism and content creation, previously working for SB Nation, The Associated Press, New York Daily News, SNY, and Front Office Sports. In 2016, he received New York University's CCTOP scholarship and earned a bachelor's degree in Communications from St. John's University. He can be spotted a mile away thanks to his plaid suits and thick New York accent. Don't believe us? Check his Twitter @APooch.
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