Year one for Matt Rhule as the Carolina Panthers head coach went as expected. The team went 5-11 and were in just about every game, losing eight of the eleven games by just one score. Rhule is known to be a great developer and oftentimes gets the most out of his players. Expectations weren't very high for Carolina in 2020 and even though they only won five games, you can see that the organization is heading in the right direction.
Conor Orr of Sports Illustrated recently released his NFL head coach power rankings and broke it up into two tiers, veterans and first-year head coaches. Out of the 25 veterans or "returning" head coaches, Orr ranks Rhule 24th.
Rhule’s staff boasts rising star Joe Brady, though Brady has his work cut out for him in 2021. The acquisition of Sam Darnold isn’t necessarily an upgrade over Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers may find themselves back on the QB market at the end of the season, pitted against the resource-loaded Eagles for a shot at Deshaun Watson when and if his legal issues are solved. The Panthers have been ping-ponging between a soft rebuild and moves that theoretically put them closer to contention, though it doesn’t feel like they are any closer this year to making noise in a crowded NFC South.
Although 25 seems low, it makes sense. Considering when guys like Vic Fangio (Broncos), Jon Gruden (Raiders), Kliff Kingsbury (Cardinals), and Joe Judge rank just ahead of Rhule, it's hard to argue that he should be much higher, especially after only one season in which he won five games.
With the moves the Panthers made in free agency, trading for Sam Darnold, and impressive draft haul, Carolina's rebuild should last no longer than a couple of years. Until the Panthers get out of this rebuilding stage, it's hard to really judge Rhule based on wins and losses alone. Player development and managing the game well is the best way to gauge how good of a coach he can be at the present moment.
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