PHILADELPHIA - Andy Reid was Philly for 14 years as the Eagles’ head coach.
Matt Rhule may be even more Philly than that, even though the Carolina Panthers head coach spent just 10 years in the city, six years as an assistant coach at Temple University, and four years as the Owls’ headman.
“It’s a place that meant a lot to me,” said Rhule of Philadelphia when he talked via conference call on Thursday morning. “I was there for 10 years…and some of my best friends and best people I know are there. We go back quite a bit.”
Unlike Reid, who returned with the Kansas City Chiefs last week to the city that forged him as a head coach, Rhule won’t be coming back, because the Eagles (1-3) will play in Charlotte on Sunday against the Panthers (3-1).
“I’ve had a lot of texts and calls this week, so I love to come back to Philly and play but I’m glad we’re playing at home, but yeah, Philly obviously means a great deal to me,” said Rhule, now 46 and who played linebacker at Penn State.
It means so much that the coach and his wife, Julie, and their three kids, continue to spend their summers on the Jersey Shore, where they own a home in Cape May.
“Julia and I consider Philadelphia our long-term home, he said. “We love Charlotte, it’s an awesome place. In coaching, we moved to Texas, but our kids consider Philadelphia their place of origin.”
In Texas, Rhule coached for three years at Baylor, going 19-20, but in his final season guided the Bears to an 11-3 record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.
In four years at Temple, he helped the Owls go 28-23, with two Bowl appearances with 10-4 and 10-3 records over his final two years.
This past summer, vacationers in Cape May, and friends, too, kept telling him they were coming to see one of his games.
“I try to tell people that we have 17 of them which one are you talking about?” he said. “They were referring to this game.”
Rhule has his Panthers tied for first place in the NFC South with the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who visit Philadelphia on Thursday, four days after the Eagles and Panthers play on Sunday.
Ruhle and offensive coordinator Joe Brady have quarterback Sam Darnold playing the best football of his career.
A cast-off of the New York Jets, who made Darnold the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, but gave up on him, the QB has four rushing touchdowns in the last three games while completing close to 68 percent of his passes with five TDs and three interceptions.
“I think he’s just confident,” said Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton on Thursday. “Just being in that system, getting wins, obviously, starting off 2-0, 3-0, you just feel better. When you’re winning, you feel confident. You just play better football.”
Rhule has a defense that is also playing extremely well. The Panthers are ranked third overall, first in third-down stops, second in pass defense, and third in points allowed per game, and that’s even after Dallas stuck them for 36 points in handing Carolina its first setback last week.
He has defensive assistants that he has known for about as long as he’s been coaching, going back to when he was a graduate assistant working for current defensive coordinator Phil Snow at UCLA.
Others include linebacker coach Mike Siravo, cornerback coach Evan Cooper, and coaching assistant Terrance Knighton.
“We have a bunch of guys who used to work up on North Broad Street who are with me now,” said Rhule, “and I wouldn’t do it any other way.”
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.