4 big factors behind a possible playoff place for the Panthers in 2021

De White
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Matt Rhule
(Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) Matt Rhule /
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(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

Matt Rhule’s track record

Matt Rhule is a player’s coach and a proven team-builder.

He is a loyal man who attracts attention and respect so much that coaches all follow him from collegiate programs to the NFL and former players decline re-signing with their respective teams or other teams to play for him in Carolina.

Until last year, Rhule has been a college coach – disregard his small-time in his role with the New York Giants. But how much of last year’s success or failure can be attributed to this coach?

Blame can be shifted and given to a number of people involved in the 5-11 campaign, but some can equally be bestowed upon Rhule. However, play-calling on offense and defense were controlled by Phil Snow and Joe Brady, and no one would have guessed the massive disappointment Tahir Whitehead was, the lessening play of the secondary, the amount of help needed at cornerback, and the less than stellar play at quarterback.

Though Rhule gave his seal of approval to all this – which he is to blame for – no one would’ve expected the team to breakdown so much after promising start to a COVID-19 damaged season.

By my count, the Carolina Panthers lost six games by seven points or less. And I can’t fully blame Rhule for trusting his coordinators when so many games could’ve been won or tied with only one score.

Maybe we can point the finger for signing poor players, or is that more of a Hurney thing?

During the season, Rhule played the hand he was dealt and his players fell short.

Joey Slye missed a few kicks during the season that could’ve helped the team, the defense was too inexperienced to compete against playoff-caliber offenses, and Teddy Bridgewater missed on multiple opportunities that would’ve put the team in better positions.

But in each of Rhule’s stops as a head coach, the improvement from year one to year two has been significant.

With Temple, Rhule went from 2-10 in 2013 to 6-6 the following year.

This was followed by another improvement to 10-4 in 2015 and 10-3 in 2016, ending both seasons in bowl games.

Then after moving on to a damaged Baylor program, Rhule went from a 1-11 season in 2017 to 7-6 and 11-3 in 2019 before moving into NFL territory with the Carolina Panthers. So clearly there’s something in his process that works.

Whether it’s winning over a team, recruiting better players, better coaching, or just the roster maturing in his system and playbook. Regardless, Rhule has never had a losing season after his initial arrival.

With up and coming players on both sides of the ball, impressive veterans, and loyal players who were coached by Rhule in college, the needle could point to positive changes.

The question for him is if he can continue his impressive tradition in the NFL.

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