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Matt Rhule fired by Panthers after 2.5 seasons

The Carolina Panthers have finally let go of head coach Matt Rhule after a 1-4 start.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New York Giants Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule on Monday, in the wake of the team’s loss Sunday to the San Francisco 49ers. The loss dropped the Panthers to 1-4 on the season, and 11-27 over the course of his time in Carolina. Ian Rapoport broke the news.

Steve Wilks, the passing game coordinator and secondary coach, will take over as Carolina’s interim coach.

Carolina hired Rhule prior to the 2020 season, after Rhule guided the Baylor Bears to an 11-1 record, their best finish in Rhule’s three years with the program. That season, the Bears lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game, and to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

Still, the Panthers made Rhule their head coach, after parting ways with Ron Rivera midway through the 2019 season. At the time the Panthers hired Rhule — the first head coach hiring by owner David Tepper — the owner viewed Rhule as the “program builder.” Tepper drew parallels to Chuck Noll of the Pittsburgh Steelers when making the hire. “He built a program that has lasted through three coaches,” Tepper said of the legendary Steelers coach. “That’s what I hope Matt Rhule can do for us here. He’s a program builder.”

Beyond that, Tepper appreciated Rhule’s forward thinking:

He’s impressive in player development and sports science – recovery techniques, intensity of training, integration with the strength program. He started talking about how he develops players and how he’s going to pick his staff and we all went from being in interview mode to recruiting mode. Everybody just knew. We switched without a word being said.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, the owner’s optimism failed to translate into results on the field from Rhule. Carolina finished with a 5-11 record during his first year as a head coach, and a 5-12 season followed a year ago. Carolina’s slow start this season was the final straw.

Perhaps most damning regarding Rhule’s tenure in Carolina was the team’s performance when the opponent scored at least 17 points. With Rhule at the helm, the Panthers were 1-26 entering Week 5 in games where the opponent scored at least 17 points.

The loss to San Francisco dropped them to 1-27. That record was the worst from a head coach since the AFL/NFL merger, topping a mark set by Chris Palmer:

Beyond that, the Panthers struggled at home under his guidance. Since taking over prior to the 2020 season, Carolina is now just 5-15 at home, including Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. Only three teams have been worse at home during that period of time: The Atlanta Falcons, the Houston Texans, and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

All three of those teams made coaching changes during that period of time.

The Panthers are now the fourth to do so.