Rhule Feels Well Prepared for Third Rebuild of His Coaching Career

Schuyler Callihan

Thursday afternoon, Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule met with the media to discuss how his team is getting through a virtual offseason. Rhule made it pretty clear that he loves the make up of the roster and really feels confident about the team's ability despite having yet played together. 

"I think the biggest thing is it's a team that I like. They like to work, they're really competitive. We ended with a final exam type of thing, which was not really for anything other than bragging rights and I thought guys took it unbelievably seriously. I think that's just kind of how they've handled their business the whole time. It's a team that I like, it's a coaching staff that I like, I like the interaction. We've done everything from mental health and wellness to special teams, to guest speakers and I feel like our guys have shown up everyday and been really good about it. When you have nice chemistry and guys who enjoy working together and there's a strong work ethic, you're starting off in the right direction."

Although Rhule loves his personnel, it's not going to be an overnight fix. Rhule understands that and most importantly has been through this twice before, once at Temple and once at Baylor. He took Temple from a two win team to a ten win team in two years and took Baylor from a one win team to an eleven win team in two years. He has the blueprint to success, which he sort of shed some light on without giving away too many of his tips.

"Number one is get the right people on the field. Find the winners and get them on the field. I think we've tried to do that in free agency, I think we've tried to do that in the draft. They might be young and they might not be 100% ready yet, but it's about finding the right people that are going to do things the way you want them done and believe in the same things that you believe in. The days of coaching and telling people what to do are over. It's about finding people who share the same vision as you and then letting them go do their thing. So that was the biggest takeaway I had. Then it was, don't cut corners to win. Now we want to win and we want to win at everything, but it's about building this thing the right way. So I thought in free agency, I thought Marty [Hurney] was disciplined and we didn't overspend on somebody that wouldn't be on the team in two years. We tried to build it the right way. In the draft, we didn't reach, we just sat there and said which players are going to be great this year and in two years, three years."

Rhule makes a good point here, you can't cut corners to win. Often times, front offices get a little giddy and want to jumpstart the rebuild by signing guys to max contracts and bringing in a bunch of extremely talented players that either don't fit the mold of the team or don't fit the culture that said coach is trying to instill into his team. As Rhule mentioned, the Panthers did a really good job of not being overaggressive in free agency. They got some quality guys that were not only looking for an opportunity to expand their role, but were on the cheap side as well. Some of those guys include defensive end Stephen Weatherly, safety Juston Burris, wide receivers Keith Kirkwood, Seth Roberts, and Pharoh Cooper and offensive linemen Michael Schofield and John Miller. Hurney did make one "splash" if you will by signing corner Eli Apple. I say splash very carefully due to the struggles he has had throughout his first few years in the league. He has the talent, he just has to put it all together. Matt Rhule was quoted saying, "we think his best football days are ahead of him," and if true, it could be a much needed boost to the Panthers secondary.

The first part of what Rhule stated was maybe the most important tidbit and that is getting guys who share the same vision as you. If you are acquiring guys via free agency, trades, or the draft solely based on their talent, you could be putting yourself in an unbelievably tough position. Talent can only take you so far, especially if a player doesn't necessarily buy-in to your system, philosophy, scheme, etc. You have to have players that not only do things the right way, but understand the steps it's going to take to see success. 

Although rebuilding is never a "fun" process, Rhule embraces it. As I've mentioned previously, he's done it twice before so now he has a level of comfortability with it. 

"Not many guys have a chance to say that they're still a head coach, certainly not an NFL head coach after having a 1-11 and 2-10 season, you're usually a former coach. So I've been able to get through both of those years and still be employed and I always felt like our best coaching, our best teaching, our best seasons were in those years. So I've tried to take this offseason to have the same approach of let's teach, let's teach, let's teach."

And teaching is the best way to go about it. Regardless if the pandemic happened or not, teaching the schemes and the philosophy are the most important pieces to the rebuilding puzzle. You can't install an offense without the players understanding pass protections, run and pass concepts, the route tree, offensive verbiage, and so on. The same can be said for the defense. With the coronavirus still hanging around, teaching has become basically the only way for this team to get work done, which may be the best thing for them to do anyways.

What do you think about Rhule's comments about this team? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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