Matt Rhule has not lived up to his expectations in Carolina for the past two years, but this won’t affect his job.
Rhule stated to reporters that he spoke on Monday with David Tepper, the Panthers’ owner. The two discussed the future of the team without providing any more details. The Panthers appear to be moving forward with Rhule still as their head coach. However, after firing Joe Brady, the Panthers now have a vacancy at the position.
There are many other questions they need to answer, including at the quarterback. Cam Newton returned to Carolina in 2021, and could be back in the mix in 2022. Scott Fitterer, the Panthers general manager, told reporters that Carolina is open for Newton to return. He also spoke highly of Newton’s first encounter with him as a player.
Fitterer said that he had a view of Cam Newton from the outside. [Update News]’s Joe Person. “And to meet his, I’ve never felt more impressed with a football player.”
Newton, however, isn’t ready for a rebuild.
Newton said that “At this moment forward, i’m not returning for no 5-12,” ESPN. “I can tell that right now. I will support it if it is about winning. If it’s not about winning, I won’t join the wagon.
Because of a lackluster offense, Newton did not win any games as a Carolina starter. That, of course, wasn’t helped by the loss of Christian McCaffrey, who finished 2021 out of action for a second straight season. McCaffrey played in only 10 games between 2020-2021 and Carolina is clearly a much worse team without him.
Surprisingly the Panthers may not be keen to keep McCaffrey, who they pay more for per year than any other runningback in the NFL. McCaffrey makes a good living trying to get back from injury, with an average salary of $16 million. McCaffrey is not getting a fair return on his investment and the Panthers have been left with too many empty pockets in the past two seasons to even consider leaving McCaffrey.
Fitterer said Monday that McCaffrey is a better Panthers team than the Panthers and that they have no plans to trade him. Even if they were to move him, it would be difficult because of his huge salary. Carolina would face a penalty of $18.5million for losing him. Ruhle stated that McCaffrey is expected to be with the team in the next season.
McCaffrey is expected to be back in Carolina in 2022. He hopes to play more than half the games per season. McCaffrey will be available to whatever quarterback he chooses. This is what Sam Darnold had to learn in 2021.
Carolina’s expectations for Darnold in 2021 were not fulfilled by his arrival via trade, performance, and absence due to injury.
Rhule was at a loss Monday morning when asked about Darnold. She only offered an explanation of why Darnold’s fifth year option was so quickly picked up by the Panthers. This explanation was based on Darnold’s relatively affordable fifth-year salary ($18.858 millions) as the reason. Darnold did not perform well enough to justify this decision, putting the Panthers in yet another season of uncertainty.
Darnold’s contract, which is guaranteed for 2022, carries a penalty of a similar nature to McCaffrey’s in the event Darnold is let go. Darnold is one the two quarterbacks, the other being P.J. Walker is currently under contract with the Panthers as they enter the new year.
There is no one-size fits all solution to Carolina’s problems. But Rhule can’t afford another losing streak as long as the one that the Panthers had to end the season. Rhule could lose his job in 2022 if he drops seven consecutive losses. To avoid another disappointment, the Panthers must put together a productive offseason that includes roster changes and staff changes. Rhule knows that time is not a luxury.