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Matt Rhule's transition to the NFL has been difficult, and the first two years of his regime have not gone quite according to plan. However, owner David Tepper is not preparing to move from him despite the lack of victories to this point, league sources said.

Rhule's future in pro football, and Tepper's willingness to handle the struggles that have come with this regime, have been the subject of considerable chatter around the NFL, and the odds of him seeing out a six-year contract could very much hang on the progress displayed in 2022. Sources said Rhule was linked to several top college openings last month and that there remain certain opportunities in the college game -- where he turned around programs at Temple and Baylor -- that would appeal to him.

This might not prove to be a long-term match, with the Panthers needing to overhaul their offense some this offseason, reconfigure the staff on that side of the ball (after coordinator Joe Brady was fired at the bye week) and continue to pursue an answer at quarterback. (The team was very interested in Deshaun Watson prior to the trade deadline, and that should intensify as his legal situation becomes more clear in 2022.) Tepper is consumed with winning and turning around this franchise, and is not afraid to spend big to make that happen.

How the Panthers start the 2022 campaign could go a long way in determining the course of this franchise. Rhule would be a commodity on the college circuit again next October/November, and, according to many who know Tepper well and have worked with him or for him in the past, the odds of this billionaire standing pat after a third straight lost season -- should it come to that -- are bleak. However, for now, league sources said Tepper has indicated no desire to pursue another head coach. This offseason will be spent trying to provide whatever is necessary to turn next year into a winning season.