Former Panthers coach Matt Rhule isn’t upset. Or so he says.
He says other things that suggest otherwise.
Now that Rhule has an eight-year contract with Nebraska and no immediate (or long-term) plans to return to the NFL, Rhule has opted for candor, even if it’s tainted by revisionist history, regarding his time with the Panthers.
Asked during an appearance on The Season with Peter Schrager what Rhule would have done differently, he was blunt.
“I think I probably would just probably [have] taken another job,” Rhule said. “It’s a great place. Wonderful people. But I just don’t know if I was a fit there. You know, at the end of the day, you know, we talked about, ‘Hey, we’re gonna have a four-year plan, a five-year plan.’ You know, if you tell me, ‘Hey, we got a two-year plan,’ then I’m gonna go sign a bunch of free agents and do it. So what was a four-year plan became a two-year-and-five-game plan real quick.”
So, in other words, Rhule would have done better sooner if he knew he was expected to do better sooner.
“I’m not angry about it,” Rhule added. “At the end of the day, I understand. But if it’s gonna be that quick, then we’re gonna sign some more free agents, we’re gonna go make the blockbuster trade, we’re gonna do those things. I think the trajectory we were on was correct.”
It’s not like they didn’t try to make a blockbuster trade. They wanted Deshaun Watson. He didn’t want them. No accomplished veteran quarterback with options has opted for the Panthers.
Maybe it was Rhule that caused them to shy away. Maybe it was owner David Tepper. Maybe it was something else.
Regardless, Rhule’s comments ring hollow. There are no four- or five-year plans in the NFL, and the Panthers were indeed trying to get the difference makers that would help them win now. They just couldn’t make it happen.
The more likely truth is that Rhule opted not for the security of a supposed four- or five-year plan but for the money that Tepper was paying. The Giants, who also wanted Rhule, wouldn’t even consider matching the seven-year, $62 million package that Tepper gave Rhule.
That’s ultimately what got Rhule to take the job. Maybe he regrets prioritizing money over the potential for winning. Maybe he regrets working for Tepper, who seems to be inclined to meddle more than most owners.
Regardless, the idea that Rhule regrets taking the job because he thought he’d get four or five years to show real progress is hard to swallow, given that the NFL no longer works this way — and hasn’t for decades.