Rhule Making the Most of an Unideal Offseason

Schuyler Callihan

There's not much certainty surrounding the 2020 NFL season, but one thing that is certain is that Carolina Panthers first year coach Matt Rhule is at a huge disadvantage. 

Moving from the college game to the NFL is a big jump as it is. Throw in a pandemic-plagued offseason, no mini camp, preseason games, and limited in-person activity, and you've got a disaster waiting to happen. Matt Rhule isn't the only coach going through this, but he is the only rookie head coach that is coming from college.

This past Wednesday, Rhule met with the media to discuss some of the challenges that he and his staff have had to navigate through and how this offseason has put the Panthers in a tough spot entering the 2020 season.

“I mean it’s less than ideal. I mean even as we’re making decisions right now, we’re making decisions based off of meeting rooms and things like that, but it just is what it is. Like there’s nothing worse than a football coach who complains, so I just have to do the best I can with it, we all have to do the best we can with it and take it as a challenge," Rhule said. "I still haven’t met all of the players yet. Guys are going to be walking in and I’m going to be introducing them to me and you know, ‘hey I’m Matt Rhule,’ and meeting them through masks, but it’s a challenge this year, so I’m going to enthusiastically accept it."

A couple of months ago, there was some optimism that the NFL would be able to start on-time and have minicamp and preseason games, but obviously that has fallen to the wayside as positive tests of COVID-19 saw another surge in the U.S. in July. The challenge that comes with not having preseason games is not getting to see guys in live action. This typically gives the staff the chance to see what their strengths and weaknesses are in a "game setting" and also gives guys an opportunity to make the 53-man roster. Now, it's going to be all based off of how they perform in training camp. 

“I think the hard part is that there’s always those guys that when they get into the games, they either struggle to bring what they do in practice to the game or some guys are the opposite, they have a special light that is lit inside them. So we won’t really see that until we get into the games, so that will be the challenge," Rhule says.

Even though this offseason has been "less than ideal" as Rhule stated, he does have the experience of not having preseason games, albeit at the college level. 

"I’ve been a head coach now for seven years and haven’t had a preseason game in college, so I’ve had to utilize practice and scrimmages and those things to make evaluations. I’m going to rely on our coaching staff, rely on our personnel staff, Marty [Hurney] and all of his people, and the thing I’ve told our guys is people always say to control what you can control - you read this all the time and you hear it, but it’s time for our players, young players, old players, if they have a meeting, whether it’s virtual or in person, they’ve got to be great at it. They get to the practice field, they get a couple reps in, and they’ve got to really show what they can do in a controlled environment and we’ll cut the team down. The way this preseason is laid out is probably how I would have it laid it out the past few years. I feel very comfortable with the way it is.”

What really hurts the Panthers right now is chemistry and knowledge of the system. Rhule and the staff have continuously praised the players for their ability to grasp the system they are putting in place, but they haven't been able to take it to the field. Nearly seven months into the job, Rhule still hasn't been able to install his offense and defense and they only have a little over a month to do it. Of course, they have been going over a good portion of the playbook and verbiage, but translating that to the practice field is a whole other story. Whether or not this is an unfortunate situation that has handicapped the coaching staff, it won't matter by season's end. Folks want to see progress, they want to see results. That doesn't necessarily mean making a push for the postseason, but more so seeing improvement on all three sides of the ball.

Do you think Matt Rhule is at a disadvantage in his first season as the Panthers head coach? Let us know your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below!

You can follow us for future coverage by clicking "Follow" on the top righthand corner of the page. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook & Twitter:

Facebook - @PanthersOnSI

Twitter - @SI_Panthers and Schuyler Callihan at @Callihan_. 

Comments (2)
No. 1-1

Teddy Bridgewater has used virtual reality since college, and I think the offense is going to surprise people. Hopefully the defense will also.