The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule after starting this season 1-4, and Steve Wilks will take over as interim head coach.
In his third season with the Panthers, Rhule posted an overall 11-27 record. The Panthers sunk to 1-4 this season after a 37-15 loss against the San Francisco 49ers.
The writing was on the wall for Rhule when bookies established him as an even-money favorite to become the first head coach to get fired this season.
The Panthers face a tough upcoming schedule, with four road games slated over the next six weeks. Those include away games against the Los Angeles Rams, Atlanta Falcons, Cincinnati Bengals, and Baltimore Ravens. Between now and their bye in Week 13, the Panthers have home games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons, and Denver Broncos.
Anemic Offense Doomed Rhule, Panthers
In the modern NFL, passing is supreme. If you can’t generate points, then you better have a stifling defense to keep you in games. The Panthers lacked both, which is why they began this season 1-4 and sit in last place in the NFC South.
Owner David Tepper knew the Panthers were in the middle of an organizational overhaul that would take five or six years to turn the perennial loser into a Super Bowl contender.
Rhule established himself as a head coach who can turn around a team by instilling a winning culture. He turned Temple into a winning program, and he transformed Baylor into a Big 12 powerhouse. Rhule was considered a popular choice to become an NFL head coach in 2020. He turned down the New York Giants for an interview after Tepper offered him a seven-year contract worth $62 million.
The Panthers struggled to score points, which led to Rhule’s downfall. They were 1-27 in games in which they allowed 17 or more points, including 25 consecutive losses.
The Panthers didn’t exactly have superstar quarterbacks to run Rhule’s offense. Teddy Bridgewater went 5-11 as a starter in 2020. Last season, the Panthers went 5-12 with Sam Darnold and a disappointing reunion with Cam Newton. The Panthers acquired Baker Mayfield in a trade this off-season. Mayfield won the starting job when Darnold was injured in the preseason and led the Panthers to their lone victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 3.
Wilks the Interim HC, Rhule to Return to College?
The Panthers promoted Wilks to head coach. He was the defensive pass game coordinator and secondary coach. Wilks spent one season as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, where he went 3-13 in 2018. He spent six seasons as a defensive assistant with the Panthers between 2012 and 2017 before heading to Arizona for his first shot at becoming a head coach.
Rhule excelled in college, so it makes sense that he’d return to the collegiate ranks to revitalize his career. There are numerous historic universities with head coaching vacancies and a couple of blue-chip schools, like Auburn, that could part ways with their head coach by the end of the season.
In the Pac-12, Arizona State and Colorado need a new head coach after Herm Edwards and Karl Dorrell were fired after lackluster starts. Stanford’s head coach, David Shaw, is on the hot seat, so there are three potential spots for Rhule out west.
If Rhule wants a shot at the Big Ten, then Nebraska and Wisconsin are looking for new head coaches. If Rhule wants a challenge in the SEC, Missouri and Auburn are expected to move on from their current head coaches. Meanwhile, if Rhule wants to return to the Big 12, then he could be headed to West Virginia.