The Carolina Panthers are heading into a 2022 NFL season that could have huge ramifications for many within the organization. Years after the fan base and organization felt excitement for the team’s long-term outlook, things look beat.
Things looked concerning at the start of the offseason. Panthers’ owner David Tepper reportedly felt ‘unhappy and embarrassed by the results under head coach Matt Rhule. Hired out of college and instantly made one of the highest-paid NFL coaches, Rhule’s team started the 2021 season 3-0 and finished with a 5-12 record.
Despite the frustration from ownership, past criticism from players and other concerning problems, Rhule remains the head coach. Meanwhile, after whiffing on a quarterback trades this spring, the Panthers are faced with either starting Sam Darnold or Matt Corral vs acquiring Baker Mayfield.
For now, the Panthers are committed to their current options at quarterback. While the main rationale for a lack of movement on Mayfield is his $18.8 million guaranteed salary, another factor is at play. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN shared on the Yahoo Sports’ You Pod to Win the Game podcast that there isn’t consensus in Carolina on Mayfield.
NFL reporter Charles Robinson acknowledged Fowler’s note that the Panthers lack consensus on Mayfield. Furthermore, Robinson said that a lack of consensus on the football side occurs very often.
It’s a troubling indication of different visions within the Panthers’ organization. Tepper is a hands-on owner, the person who pushed hardest for a Deshaun Watson trade and badly wants his imprint on this team to turn it into a contender.
What Carolina Panthers’ issues mean for Matt Rhule
Matt Rhule is squarely on the hot seat this fall. After two seasons, a team that everyone anticipated would improve under the respected coach is showing no signs of progress. Instead, a 47-year-old praised for his ability to build winning programs is seemingly under pressure with little confidence around him.
He easily could have been fired this offseason, with Tepper seizing on a pool of NFL coaching candidates with a lot of appeal. However, a lengthy contract proved to be a deterrent and bought Rhule another season in Carolina.
- Matt Rhule record (Carolina Panthers): 10-23
However, that also creates a problem. Rhule’s job is on the line and he likely knows if things end badly this year, he might not get another shot to be an NFL head coach. Carolina hired him despite his lone season of NFL experience coming as an assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants in 2012.
Coaching for his life in 2022, Rhule needs Mayfield to even have a shot at surviving another year. But Tepper is already paying Darnold $18.858 million guaranteed this season, all from a trade that Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer signed off on with the belief Darnold would be a good quarterback.
While Tepper comes from a Steelers organization that exercised patience, he became one of the richest NFL owners by making aggressive moves in business. If the Panthers don’t even contend for a .500 record this fall and there is more disagreement in the front office, massive changes could be made with Rhule the first to be pushed out.