How much pressure is on Panthers head coach Matt Rhule in 2021?

(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

How much pressure is on head coach Matt Rhule during his second full season with the Carolina Panthers in 2021?

It’s easy to forgive Matt Rhule for the Carolina Panthers going 5-11 during his first year as head coach. Things weren’t exactly helped by a disrupted offseason program due to COVID-19, which meant his new-look roster was on the back foot right from the start.

Not only this, but the Panthers underwent some substantial changes to their roster – including releasing quarterback Cam Newton – so a period of transition was always expected in 2020.

Carolina didn’t give Rhule a seven-year, $60 million deal to prise him from Baylor for nothing. Team owner David Tepper hasn’t experienced a winning season since buying the team and the billionaire wants to see results improve now he’s finally got all his men in place.

Rhule certainly left a good impression despite the challenging circumstances. He got everybody pulling in the same direction quickly and the Panthers were far more competitive than anybody expected before failing late in games.

A lot of that was down to poor quarterback play from Teddy Bridgewater, who is no longer around. But the coaching staff also displayed some naivety in critical moments that also had a detrimental impact on the team’s chances.

Hopefully, a more structured preparation period and some extra experience should stand Rhule and the Panthers well in the coming months. He may have gotten a pass for last year, but that won’t be the case this time around.

Rhule’s rebuilding success in the college ranks didn’t happen overnight. There wasn’t much to shout about during his first year at either Temple or Baylor, but this quickly changed in Year 2 and beyond.

Carolina will be hoping history repeats itself where Rhule is concerned at the next level.

If things don’t go according to plan, his seat might get a little warmer this time in 2022.

Matt Rhule has a big say in personnel decisions with the Carolina Panthers.

Another reason why Rhule might be under pressure if things go wrong is his involvement in the recruitment process.

The Panthers have given him plenty of stroke working alongside new Scott Fitterer, who arrived from the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year. Although Marty Hurney carried the can for Bridgewater’s contract, the move to bring him onboard doesn’t happen without Rhule giving it the green light.

Those in power hitched their wagon to Sam Darnold after acquiring the signal-caller from the New York Jets. This was pretty much option No. 3 behind Matthew Stafford and Deshaun Watson, so whether it comes off or not remains to be seen.

Should the former USC star fail in new surroundings, it’s going to reflect badly on Rhule.

Three quarterback searches in as many offseasons will do that.

Hopefully, for Rhule and the Panthers, this talented group of players can put it all together and perhaps attain a winning record. This would be another strong indicator that things are trending in the right direction.

Carolina’s schedule looks favorable in the grand scheme of things. But as we all know, football isn’t played on paper and if things start poorly, it’s going to take a big effort to turn things around.

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The stakes are higher for Rhule in 2021. Whether fans and Tepper can keep the bigger picture in mind if things don’t go according to plan is another matter.