Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is running out of scapegoats

(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule
(Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

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Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is rapidly running out of scapegoats following the team’s dismal loss at the Buffalo Bills in Week 15.

Another poor performance at the Buffalo Bills has done nothing to ease the pressure on Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. The team is going through a traumatic run of form after such a blistering start to the campaign – with another losing year officially confirmed at Highmark Stadium with three games remaining.

This is not a sign things are progressing in Year 2 of Rhule’s tenure. Constant disruption at the quarterback position and a stubborn mindset regarding the offensive line is holding the Panthers back, with ill-discipline another frustrating element that doesn’t seem to be getting better anytime soon.

The blame game is well underway and has been for some time.

Rhule fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady during the bye week, which hasn’t brought about any sort of improvements and it seems the former Baylor man has turned his attention to Cam Newton as he looks for yet another scapegoat to take the attention away.

Matt Rhule criticized Cam Newton following another Carolina Panthers defeat.

Rhule wasn’t shy in criticizing Newton following the Week 15 reverse. One play, in particular, was scrutinized heavily by the head coach, who felt his signal-caller made the wrong call on a fourth-and-one option play that went horribly wrong.

"“It wasn’t done right. It wasn’t executed. I mean, I can’t sit here and say why. He saw the guy blitz, you can throw the bubble off the blitz, but we have that guy blocked. It should be handed off.”"

However, upon further examination, there was no block on the blitzing cornerback and Newton had no choice other than to get rid of the football quickly behind a terrible offensive line.

It’s getting pretty obvious that Rhule might not have been the man that wanted Newton to come back. But the head coach now knows there is another fall guy to take the heat off if things continue in this manner over Carolina’s remaining three fixtures against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.

Newton took the high road and didn’t respond to Rhule in front of the media. Although he clearly looked a little annoyed that his coach aired out the team’s dirty laundry in public.

The number of times Rhule’s not commented on specific plays throughout the season by highlighting the need to watch the film first makes this situation even more bizarre.

Why not wait in this instance?

It’s absolutely textbook. When a coach is under pressure, they tend to exhaust every possible scapegoat and excuse before the blame finally falls on them.

That’s exactly what is happening here.

Rhule is positioning himself for another season despite many believing he isn’t the right man to lead Carolina back to prominence. Team owner David Tepper believed in the program builder enough to hand him a huge seven-year, $60 million contract, so it’s a massive call to remove him after just two seasons.

However, there will come a time when Rhule has nobody else to blame.

And that time is fast approaching.

Whether this outburst will make the locker room think twice about the current state of affairs under Rhule is unclear. Newton commanded instant respect upon his return and it could become increasingly combustible if things unravel further before the campaign comes to a conclusion.

Related Story. 5 major factors to blame for Carolina Panthers’ loss at the Bills in Week 15. light

We might not be too far away from the tipping point. Unless Rhule figures things out quickly, he’ll be nervously looking over his shoulder in the New Year.