Matt Rhule’s first year as Carolina Panthers head coach has gone as planned. The team went 5-11 and appeared in almost every game, losing eight of eleven games by just one score. Rhule is known to be a great developer and often gets the most out of his players. Expectations weren’t too high for Carolina in 2020 and even though they only won five games, you can see the organization is moving in the right direction.
Sports Illustrated’s Conor Orr recently released his NFL Head Coaching Power Rankings and split it into two tiers, veterans and freshman head coaches. Of the 25 “returning” veterans or head coaches, Orr ranks Rhule 24th.
Rhule’s staff are proud of rising star Joe Brady, although Brady has his work cut out for him in 2021. Acquiring Sam Darnold isn’t necessarily an upgrade from Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers could find himself in the QB market at the end of the season, pitted against the resource-laden Eagles for a shot at Deshaun Watson when and if his legal issues are resolved. The Panthers have oscillated between a soft rebuild and moves that theoretically bring them closer to controversy, although it doesn’t look like they’re any closer this year to making some noise in a crowded NFC South.
Although 25 seems low, it does make sense. Considering guys like Vic Fangio (Broncos), Jon Gruden (Raiders), Kliff Kingsbury (Cardinals) and Joe Judge rank just ahead of Rhule, it’s hard to argue that he should be much higher, especially after just one. season in which he won five games.
With the Panthers’ free agency moves, the trade for Sam Darnold, and an impressive draw, Carolina’s rebuilding is unlikely to last more than a few years. Until the Panthers come out of this rebuilding stage, it’s hard to really judge Rhule on the basis of wins and losses alone. Player development and good management of the game is the best way to assess how good a coach he can be today.
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