Judgment day arrives for Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule

(Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule
(Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

Judgment day has officially arrived for Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule after a disastrous 2021 season that ended with a 5-12 record.

After weeks of speculation regarding the future of Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule, we’ll find out one way or another whether he is the man to lead this team moving forward.

All signs point to the former Baylor man getting another year. Some well-respected figures within the media stated as much, although Jay Glazer of FOX Sports added Rhule’s future is dependent on making a huge splash with his upcoming offensive coordinator hire.

Team owner David Tepper has been noticeably silent throughout the season. A strange turn of events considering how media-friendly the billionaire has been since buying the Panthers from Jerry Richardson.

However, there’s little doubt Tepper will be seething at how things have transpired on the field and it promises to be a very uncomfortable meeting between the owner and Rhule to assess the wreckage.

Whether Rhule can talk his way out of any action from Tepper’s standpoint is up for debate. There is also the small matter of the seven-year, $62 million deal he got from Carolina to keep him from taking over at the New York Giants to consider.

For the Panthers to start 3-0 and finish 5-12 is unacceptable.

And something has to give.

Matt Rhule appears confident his job with the Carolina Panthers is safe.

Whether that’s with a complete reset or some small changes has yet to be determined. But Rhule seems confident he’ll be coaching the Panthers in 2022 based on his comments following another thumping at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"“I’m never going to speak for Dave; Every conversation I’ve had, he’s been supportive. I talked to him today before the game, and we talked about the offseason and things we have to do moving forward. Since I took the job, we’ve had a plan. I’d like to be further ahead in the plan. I’m going to coach until someone tells me I’m not the coach. The minute I start making things about myself and not about the team, then I’m not about who I want to be.”"

Many fans have already seen enough of Rhule judging by their reactions on social media over the course of the campaign. But the only opinion that counts is Tepper’s in this situation.

Perhaps taking away the final say on personnel decisions to determine whether Rhule can actually become a competent NFL head coach is a realistic possibility. The Panthers have two shrewd operators in prominent front office positions – Scott Fitterer and Dan Morgan – who should be capable of putting the right pieces in place.

Rhule’s in-game management of certain situations also leaves a lot to be desired. Early timeouts and a clear failure to adapt his game plan have proven to be Carolina’s undoing on countless occasions in 2021 – so this also requires some serious self-evaluation if the head coach gets his expected reprieve.

The Panthers did show some fight at the Bucs before the defending champions showed their class in the second half to run away with the outcome. This loss also meant Carolina became the first team in NFL history to start 3-0 and lose 12 games with the extra contest implemented this season.

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Progression was minimal where the Panthers were concerned in 2021. If Rhule comes back as expected, then he’ll be on the shortest of leashes when competitive action comes around once again.