The 2022 season is only two weeks old, and the Carolina Panthers currently find themselves two games under .500. This continues an unfortunate trend of underachieving while under the command of their current head coach. Matt Rhule entered 2022 on the hot seat after consecutive losing seasons, but is it already time for the Panthers to fire their coach?
Is It Time For the Carolina Panthers To Fire Matt Rhule?
The Carolina Panthers were not in a good place when Matt Rhule took over in 2020. Injuries had destroyed Cam Newton’s ability and the roster was one of the least talented in football. The offensive line was a seive and D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey were the only two noteworthy playmakers. It’s impossible to fault Rhule for a slow start in 2020. Even the best head coach needs good players in order to win games, and the 2020 Carolina Panthers did not have enough talent to compete for anything.
However, now that he’s entering his third year at the helm, Rhule no longer has an excuse for the state of the roster. The most important part in any rebuild is finding the right quarterback, and the Panthers have yet to do that. After going through Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, Newton again, and now Baker Mayfield, the Panthers are no closer to finding their franchise passer than they were when Rhule took over all those years ago. While it’s only been two games, the fact remains that Mayfield’s Carolina tenure is not off to a rousing start.
Grant Delpit’s first INT of the season comes via Baker Mayfield! pic.twitter.com/QBayLJqiqK
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) September 11, 2022
None of the aformentioned names are franchise quarterbacks, but all of them (with the possible exception of Darnold) are capable of league-average results in the right environment. However, the offensive-minded Matt Rhule has not been able to provide that environment. Carolina routinely has one of the worst offenses in the league, and the fact that this franchise has been essentially stuck in neutral despite so many swinging doors at quarterback is simply inexcusable. There is one constant over the past three years, and that’s Rhule himself.
Looking Beyond the Quarterback
It’s not just the quarterback, as the rest of the offense has failed to notably improve at any point in the past few years. Entering 2020, the Panthers had D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, and not much else. Fast forward three years and the 2022 Carolina Panthers have D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, and not much else. Robbie Anderson is a solid starter, but Terrace Marshall has not played up to his draft capital and no other skill position has emerged. The offensive line is still a disaster and there isn’t much hope for the future.
Rhule spent the vast majority of his coaching career at the collegiate level, and that lack of NFL experience is showing. While the line between the college and professional game has never been slimmer, there is still a need to update your scheme so that it will function against the best of the best. Rhule is either unwilling or unable to do that. Since 2020, the Panthers rank 30th in the league in overall EPA/play and dropback EPA/play.
Yes, Carolina’s two losses in 2022 have come by a combined five points, so they could very easily be 2-0 right now. However, these were the easy games on the schedule – losing the gimmes is not acceptable. The complete lack of growth since 2020 speaks louder than any early-season record. The Carolina Panthers need to fire Matt Rhule and hope that the next guy can bring more success.