There was a lot of optimism when the Carolina Panthers announced the hiring of Matt Rhule as the team’s head coach in early 2020.
He was coming off a successful college football coaching career when he signed a seven-year contract with the Panthers in hopes of turning the franchise around.
But his tenure in Charlotte lasted just over three years. He was relieved of his duties after the Panthers posted a win in their first five games in 2022.
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Rhule decided to return to the collegiate ranks, taking a job with the Nebraska Cornhuskers in November. Rhule said he learned from his unsuccessful stint at Carolina and wants things to be different at Lincoln.
«Going through the fire in Carolina was a cleansing fire that melts away all the impurities, all the arrogance, all the preoccupation with things that don’t matter,» Rhule told ESPN’s Pete Thamel.
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«I’ve learned a lot about caring about what matters. I have a focus and a desire in me. I watched what my kids went through in Carolina, and we’re not going to let them go through that here.»
Rhule finished his Charlotte stint with an 11-27 record. The Panthers have won five games in 2020 and 2021.
Rhule was unable to develop the offense for the Panthers, who ranked 29th in explosive plays of 20 or more yards.
The front office also struggled to find a solution at the quarterback position. Late in the 2021 season, the team brought back veteran quarterback Cam Newton for a second season with the franchise.
Rhule expressed confidence in the opportunity to make Nebraska a contender.
«We can absolutely be a national powerhouse,» Rhule said of what he can build in Nebraska. «I think we can be relevant in the [new world] since the College Football Playoff goes to 12 teams.»
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The Panthers replaced Rhule with interim coach Steve Wilks, who is now the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. In January, Panthers owner David Tepper introduced Frank Reich as the franchise’s next head coach.
The Panthers then pulled off a blockbuster trade with the Chicago Bears to ascend to the #1 seed in the NFL Draft. Carolina selected quarterback Bryce Young with the first pick.