On January 7, former Baylor head coach Matt Rhule was pulled from the college ranks and hired by owner David Tepper to be the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers. With this move, Tepper made his first direct college coaching hire by brining in Rhule to reverse the recent fortunes of the Panthers who are coming off a 5-11 season after firing long-time coach Ron Rivera before the end of the regular season. Rhule brings a different kind of pedigree to the Panthers as his only NFL coaching experience has been with the New York Giants back in 2012 as an assistant Offensive Line coach under then head coach Tom Coughlin.
Matt Rhule is first and foremost a program and project focused head coach. Rhule has built up almost a legendary reputation for taking losing college programs and turning them into winning organizations. In 2013, Rhule took over as head coach at Temple which posted a 4-7 record the previous year. Within a year, Rhule was able to turn the tide and build Temple into a respectable 6-6 program including an upset win over ranked East Carolina. The 2015 season built on Temple's success as they were able to beat in-state rival Penn State for the first time since 1941 on their way to a 10 win season, a chance to play in the American Athletic Conference championship game and a bowl game invitation. The following season Temple won the AAC championship and again received a bowl game invitation.
2017 turned the corner for Rhule as he accepted a coaching challenge to rebuild the Baylor football program which had been reeling from scandals under previous head coach Art Briles. During the 2017 season, Rhule posted a 1-11 record which seemed as though he met his coaching match in trying to bolster a Big XII doormat program. However, Rhule's ability to motivate, teach, inspire and simply fire up his players enabled Baylor to post a 6-6 regular season in 2018 and earn a Texas Bowl invitation against Vanderbilt where Rhule posted his first bowl game victory as Baylor won 45-38. This past season, Baylor almost knocked off Oklahoma in the regular season and again faced Lincoln Riley and the Sooners in the Big XII championship game on their way to a Sugar Bowl invitation against Georgia.
What exactly does Matt Rhule bring to the Panthers? His ability to inspire players, to get the best out of each individual and his personal passion for everything football has become infectious in the college ranks.
Panthers owner David Tepper is betting that this kind of motivational leadership will in turn invigorate his organization and within a season or two the Panthers will return to the NFL postseason. Tepper is betting an enormous amount on Rhule since he offered him a coaching deal worth more than $70 million dollars for the next seven years, a virtually unheard of sum in NFL coaching ranks. The next few months of the offseason, including the NFL Draft, will see how fast Matt Rhule has hit the ground running and the eyes of the NFL are watching to see what this college "miracle worker" can do to turn around the Carolina Panthers.