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NFL coaches view Carolina Panthers’ Matt Rhule as ‘lame duck’

Matt Johnson
Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule survived the 2021 NFL coaching carousel. However, his peers around the league seem to believe that Rhule might not be around for much longer in Carolina and it impacted the team’s search for an offensive coordinator.

Rhule barely avoided being fired. Things looked promising for the Panthers following a 3-0 start to the season, but four straight losses delivered a blow to confidence within the organization. Carolina rebounded, winning two of its next three games, entering mid-November with a 5-5 record.

However, any momentum the team had quickly faded away. The Panthers lost their final seven games to close out the season, including double-digit losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (twice), Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. As rumor surfaced about Rhule’s future being in jeopardy.

While Rhule ultimately made it through the wave of firings, reports of David Tepper’s unhappiness and embarrassment with how the team performed in two years under Rhule added uncertainty. It clearly impacted Rhule’s ability to land a top offensive coordinator, too.

In a recent appearance on FOX Sports Upsate’s Game On, Panthers’ reporter Joseph Person shared how some on Rhule’s coaching staff and candidates he interviewed for OC view his status in Carolina.

“There were coaches on staff, there were coaches that Matt Rhule wanted to bring in here and talk to like a Thomas McGaughey and a Pep Hamilton that viewed this situation as a lame-duck situation and didn’t want any part of it,.”

The Athletic’s Joseph Person on how NFL coaches view status of Carolina Panthers HC Matt Rhule (H/T Panthers Wire)

This is the risk the Panthers took by keeping Rhule. In an offseason with outstanding NFL coaching candidates, Tepper’s decision to sign Rhule to a seven-year contract is likely the primary reason he didn’t get fired. It’s possible things improve with a quarterback upgrade, but Rhule’s expensive swings on Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold both ended badly.

For now, Rhule is safe and he can prove himself next season. However, a slow start will likely result in an aggressive owner pulling the plug early and being at the front of the line to hire a top coach next year.

Related: Carolina Panthers’ Matt Rhule expressed interest in a return to CFB?