I know a lot is made about how "Rhule can't evaluate talent" but I think that's not a fair statement. When you look at what he's done in the draft, it's hard to discredit him. Sure, he passed on OT Rashawn Slater along with QBs Justin Fields and Mac Jones for Jaycee Horn and in the same draft took a long snapper in the 6th round. That said, it's not like Horn is a bad player. In fact, he has the look of a shutdown corner in this league although he only played in three games this season. The biggest reason Rhule's grade is so high here is because he hasn't really missed on picks yet. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. wasn't much of a factor this season but you could see the potential, he just needs more opportunities. He drafted S Jeremy Chinn in the 2nd round, OL Brady Christensen in the 3rd, RB Chuba Hubbard in the 4th, and CB Keith Taylor Jr. in the 5th. If there's one thing you can't really knock Rhule for, it's drafting.
Free agency: C
Over the last two offseasons, Rhule has signed some really solid free agents, such as WR Robby Anderson, LB Haason Reddick, LB Frankie Luvu, CB Rashaan Melvin, and L;B Denzel Perryman. Yes, Perryman never played a snap for Carolina but I lumped him in there since he made a Pro Bowl with the Chargers. The decision to trade him is a different category. However, the reason this grade is so low is because they've swung and missed on guys like QB Teddy Bridgewater, LT Cameron Erving, LG Pat Elflein, RG John Miller, LB Tahir Whitehead, DE Stephen Weatherly, and they let CB Rasul Douglas walk who ended up having a great year with the Packers. His free agency signings have been hit or miss. When he hits, he hits big. When he misses, he misses big which is why this warrants an average grade.
When you're 10-23, it's hard to justify handing out a grade above a D. The Panthers were one of the league's most penalized teams this year which hurts your chances of winning. Of course penalties are going to happen with a young team like Carolina but at some point, you have to get those things fixed. Come December, January, these guys aren't rookies anymore. The 2nd half adjustments, or lack thereof, were horrendous to say the least. The offense would implode every week in the third quarter, putting all the pressure on the defense. This is where hiring an experienced offensive coordinator comes into play.
Timeout usage: D
The Panthers have wasted a bunch of timeouts throughout the last two years, especially on offense. There have been some instances where they called a timeout out of a TV timeout or prior to the first play of a series. The only reason this isn't an F is because as bad as it may seem, I've seen a lot worse. As bright of an offensive mind as he is, Rams coach Sean McVay burns timeouts like no one else. Recently fired Giants head coach Joe Judge was even worse. Clock management alone can win and lose you a lot of games in the NFL, so this is an area that Rhule has to improve so that the Panthers can still have multiple, if not all of their timeouts in the back pocket when it gets to the end of half/end of game scenario.
In-game personnel decisions: C-
The decision to leave Sam Darnold in for the QB sneak over Cam Newton on 4th & inches against Tampa Bay was questionable, but it wasn't a terrible decision. How is that? Well for one, to me, it looked like Darnold got more than enough for the first down but they gave Carolina a bad spot. Secondly, if Darnold is incapable of falling forward for an inch or two, then he doesn't need to be on the field period. This falls on the offensive line more than anything. It doesn't matter who is under center for the sneak if the line just flat out loses the point of attack. The QB carousel was the one that really did it for me. Playing two quarterbacks is never going to work although I do get the reasoning behind it (the first couple of weeks). I understand that you brought Newton into the fold mid-season but in hindsight, it may have been better had the Panthers just rolled with P.J. Walker and Matt Barkley. The results wouldn't have been any different, you save the money you paid Cam, and you see what P.J. is capable/incapable of doing. Even if Newton led the Panthers to a few wins to get into the playoffs, this team was not going to advance past Wild Card weekend.
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