As the Carolina Panthers (5-11) prepare to play their final game of this miserable season, fans are calling for Matt Rhule’s head.
Rhule, the team’s head coach, signed a seven-year, $62 million deal in 2020, but after compiling a 10-22 record over two years, many expect his termination to come soon.
While I have every right to want Rhule fired (my game-day predictions for the QCity Metro newsletter were just as bad as the team’s performance), I think he deserves another year.
Here are my three reasons why:
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The Panthers have one of the youngest rosters in the league with an average age of 25.4 years old.
While having a young roster is promising, it comes with growing pains and mistakes.
Evidence of this is shown as the Panthers are one of the most-penalized teams in the league this season.
Rhule’s first season was affected by limited pre-season preparations caused by Covid-19. This year was his first full season to implement his schemes and game plans.
Another season will give the roster a chance to mature and grow under Rhule’s system.
2. Rhule’s past success.
One of the main reasons Rhule was hired is because of his history of rebuilding and reimagining bad programs.
When he took over head coaching duties at Temple University (2013-2016) and Baylor University (2017-2019), both programs were in rebuild mode.
Temple had finished 4-7 the year before Rhule took over and wanted to get back to winning. Baylor was suffering from numerous sexual assault and harassment scandals and needed a fresh start.
His first two years at each school were plagued with losses, but year three saw 10-plus wins and bowl game appearances.
Rhule has continued to remind Panther fans to “trust the process” after nearly every loss. Based on the evidence, a third year in Carolina will be Rhule’s chance to prove the doubters wrong.
3. Finding an offensive identity
It’s truly hard to make any strides in the NFL without having a true identity on both sides of the ball. While Carolina’s defense has improved since Rhule’s arrival (ranked #2 in 2021 after being ranked #18 in 2020), the problems stem from the offense.
Carolina has yet to find a franchise quarterback. After failed experiments with Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and former Panther Cam Newton, Rhule’s best option is to sign/trade for a proven quarterback or select one in the draft who he can nurture in his system.
Every successful offense starts with a good offensive line, and the Panthers have one of the worst in the league. The unit ranks 25th in run blocking and 29th in pass blocking in ESPN’s blocking metrics this season.
It’s hard to expect a coach to excel with turnover-prone quarterbacks and below-average blockers.
Securing a franchise signal-caller and an upgraded offensive line this offseason will give Rhule a viable chance to succeed in 2022.
He deserves that chance.