Matt Rhule characterizes Panthers head coaching tenure as a ‘purifying fire’


Matt Rhule’s tenure in Carolina didn’t last as long as both sides had hoped it would when the organization inked him to a seven-year deal in 2020. Just five weeks through Year 3 of that contract, the head coach found himself ousted by owner David Tepper after a 1-4 start to last season. Rhule has since landed on his feet, however, as he’s moved back to the college ranks and is now set to enter his first season as the head coach at Nebraska. 

As he makes this transition to this new gig, Rhule is going to use his failures in Carolina as a learning experience while also vowing that his time with Nebraska will be a drastically different tenure. 

“Going through the fire in Carolina was a purifying fire that melts away all the impurities, all the hubris, all the worrying about stuff that doesn’t matter,” Rhule told ESPN’s Pete Thamel. “I learned very much to worry about what matters. I have a focus and a desire in me. I watched what my kids had to go through in Carolina, and we’re not going to let ’em go through that here.”

Rhule went 11-27 in the three years he was with the Panthers, including two five-win campaigns in 2020 and 2021. Offensively, there was no explosion in Rhule’s system as they ranked 29th in the league in offensive plays that went 20-plus yards. On top of that, Rhule was unable to identify a franchise quarterback for Carolina in the post-Cam Newton era. 

It’s quite possible that the NFL simply didn’t mesh with how Rhule approaches coaching. He was far more successful during his tenures at Temple and Baylor before he made the leap to the pros, so this new situation with Nebraska could be more in his comfort zone, thus resulting in more productive football. 

“We can absolutely be a national power,” Rhule said of what he can build at Nebraska. “I think we can be relevant in the [new world], as the College Football Playoff goes to 12 teams.”

As Rhule tries to reinvent himself at the college level, the Panthers are seemingly on a better track as well. The club has since hired former Colts head coach Frank Reich to man the sideline and just drafted Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with the No. 1 overall pick. 

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