Do the Carolina Panthers have a coaching staff problem?

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

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The Carolina Panthers coaching staff have come under the microscope once again following the team’s disappointing loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

It was another gut-wrenching defeat for the Carolina Panthers on home soil. And all the positive momentum generated over the first three weeks of the 2021 season has now completely disintegrated.

The Minnesota Vikings did their best to hand Carolina a route back into the game, which is something they’ve done throughout the campaign. But even though the Panthers rallied late to send the contest into overtime, Kirk Cousins came up with the goods on a touchdown drive to pile more misery on Matt Rhule and his staff.

And that’s where the problems begin.

One can talk all day about the poor offensive line, Sam Darnold’s limitations, or a lack of execution when it matters most. But the coaching staff needs to be held accountable for the way they’re managing situations in-game and preparing the team during the week.

The Panthers just didn’t look ready to play on offense right out of the gate. Sam Darnold threw an interception on the very first play and the whole game was littered with individual errors and missed assignments that played a leading role in the team’s eventual demise.

Speaking after the game, Rhule stated that the Panthers are still trying to find an identity on the offensive side of the football without Christian McCaffrey, who missed his third-straight game and is now on the reserve/injured list thanks to a hamstring problem.

"“I think right now, we have to figure out, especially with Christian out and some other guys out, what our identity is. We’re trying to figure out exactly how to win as best we can.”"

Now it’s not like Carolina doesn’t have experience of playing without McCaffrey, who’s missed 16 of the last 22 games. So for them to still be searching for an identity without him is unbelievable, in all honesty.

I mean, what are we doing here?

McCaffrey is the best dual-threat back in the league, But the coaching staff should have a concise set of adjustments in the event he misses games.

It’s just that simple.

Carolina Panthers need to make some serious adjustments moving forward.

Individual errors happen to even the best teams. Nobody is perfect and mistakes happen.

But the distinct lack of focus is down to coaching and how the team gets ready for differing challenges week-to-week.

Phil Snow’s defense did everything they could, but being on the field for so many snaps as the offense sputtered once again left them weary and the Vikings were able to rack up 571 total yards throughout the game.

Not exactly the recipe for success.

The Panthers and team owner David Tepper bet big on Rhule leading the organization back to prominence. They gave him a seven-year, $60 million deal to prise him from Baylor and also allocated him the keys to rubber-stamp the final decisions when it comes to personnel.

Whether it was Joe Brady or general manager Scott Fitterer that saw something in Darnold, it doesn’t get signed off without Rhule’s approval. The same applies to signing the likes of Cam Erving and Pat Elflein on the first day of free agency.

This was always going to be a work in progress. Such big changes don’t normally bring success overnight, but recent moves such as acquiring All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore from the New England Patriots have a “win-now” feel to them and the Panthers are some way off contending based on their last three performances.

Rhule’s honeymoon period is well and truly over. His management of situational football doesn’t seem to be improving and the clock issues and third-quarter production are ongoing concerns that are holding this team back.

There’s nothing to suggest Rhule is remotely on the hot seat. But what Tepper and the fans want to see is progression year-on-year en route to becoming a leading contender sooner rather than later.

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The next 11 games will tell us plenty about which direction the Panthers are going in. And it will be up to Rhule and his staff to make sure there is cause for optimism rather than trepidation by the season’s conclusion.