The fit between Matt Rhule and the Carolina Panthers seemed all too perfect for owner David Tepper almost three years ago. In fact, the billionaire wanted the former (and fellow) short-order cook so bad that he waited for him in his driveway back in 2020 to seal the deal.
But, two seasons and five games later, it’s obvious that it wasn’t exactly a great match at all—something Rhule has recently concurred with.
The new University of Nebraska head coach was featured on Tuesday’s episode of The Season with Peter Schrager and reflected upon his failed tenure in Carolina. When asked by host Peter Schrager what he learned there, Rhule said the fit just wasn’t right for him.
“I think I probably would just, probably just—ya know—probably taken another job,” he said. “It’s a great place. Wonderful people. But I just don’t know if I was a fit there. At the end of the day—we talked about, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have a four-year plan, a five-year plan.’ If you tell me, ‘Hey, we got a two-year plan,’ then I’ma go sign a bunch of free agents and do it. So what was a four-year plan became a two-year and five-game plan real quick.”
Over that two-year and five-game timeframe, the Panthers went 11-27. Their 1-4 start to the 2022 campaign was the final straw for Tepper, as he dismissed the man he threw a seven-year, $62 million contract at on Oct. 10.
Rhule went on to say that he believes he had the franchise on the path to success, and it’s starting to show now under his replacement in interim head coach Steve Wilks.
“I think the trajectory we were on was correct,” he added. “It was to have a team that next year could maybe make a big trade. I think you see the signs of it now. When they play well on offense, they win. There’s a good defense there. I give Steve all the credit, I give the coaches all the credit. But I’m part of that building process. So if that had just stayed through maybe this year and maybe made the big free-agent signing this year to get them over the top—I think that the Panthers could win the NFC South for years to come.”
Well, one of those years could be this one—as Wilks has the Panthers just a game and a half out of first place. And if it is, Rhule won’t be there to see it through—no matter how much of a hand he believes he had in it.