Has Panthers head coach Matt Rhule bet his job on Baker Mayfield?

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

Has Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule bet his job on quarterback Baker Mayfield after acquiring the former No. 1 overall selection via trade?

Another year, another bold move in the quarterback trade market for the Carolina Panthers.

After months of speculation and missed targets, the Panthers got their man when a deal was agreed with the Cleveland Browns for Baker Mayfield. Someone the team has been targeting for a while and finally got the trade over the line for a fifth-round pick that could become a fourth-rounder in 2023 if the former Oklahoma standout plays 70 percent of snaps.

This is yet another roll of the dice from head coach Matt Rhule, his third in succession after signing Teddy Bridgewater in 2020 free agency and trading for Sam Darnold last offseason.

Rhule will be hoping that Carolina’s move for Mayfield brings around better fortunes. Things couldn’t get much worse after the inept regression Darnold displayed once Christian McCaffrey went out of the lineup, but there is just no telling for sure right now.

Acquiring Mayfield has been largely well-received by the fanbase, although some were particularly vocal about their displeasure surrounding the news after so much turmoil at the position since the Panthers released Cam Newton.

Mayfield has more going for him than Darnold, who couldn’t get rid of some critical flaws from his game in a different environment. But just how much progress the Panthers can make with the Heisman Trophy winner will likely come with some severe ramifications one way or another.

Matt Rhule must improve the Carolina Panthers after trading for Baker Mayfield

It’s not unrealistic to say that Rhule is betting his job on Mayfield. Team owner David Tepper gave him one more chance to find the right fit under center and if Carolina strikes out again, then a complete reset is a real possibility.

Having a motivated Mayfield on board with a chip on his shoulder could provide the spark needed. He’ll also have more than enough time to fully immerse himself into Ben McAdoo’s scheme before and during the team’s upcoming training camp in Spartanburg.

Mayfield has playoff experience and he guided the Browns to a memorable triumph over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. If he can return to that form and the Panthers keep McCaffrey healthy, it’s hard to envisage a situation where the signal-caller falls flat on his face.

This also means that there are zero excuses for Rhule next season. After some significant bolstering of problem positions and new coaches with genuine experience to call upon, we’ll finally find out whether or not the former Baylor man can coach effectively in the NFL.

The trade adds yet another layer of intrigue to what’s going to be another rollercoaster campaign for the Panthers. Mayfield gets an instant chance to put one over on his old team in Week 1, which could be the springboard to a strong start with so many home games early on the schedule.

It’s a relief that all the speculation and rumors are now over. For Rhule, what comes next will be of pivotal importance and if things don’t go according to plan, this could be his final season in Carolina when it’s all said and done.

Mayfield gives the Panthers a fighting chance. But the quarterback has to get on the same page quickly and the onus will be primarily on Rhule to get everyone singing from the same hymn sheet well ahead of time.

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