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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rhule isn't yet two full seasons into the seven-year, $62 million contract he landed with the Panthers in 2020. And those inside the organization believe the 46-year-old will return in 2022, according to Joe Person of The Athletic. But that doesn't mean things can't change in the final three weeks of the season, Person reports, with notably aggressive owner David Tepper frustrated over a fourth straight losing season and not publicly committed to Rhule beyond 2021.

"Tepper has shown he's willing to cut his losses and paper over his mistakes," Person wrote this week. "(Nothing's) guaranteed unless or until the $16 billion hedge fund manager says Rhule is safe."

Asked Wednesday if he's had any conversations with Tepper about his future, Rhule said he had not.

The former Baylor coach preached a patient, long-term approach when he took over for Ron Rivera in 2020, but his Panthers are in danger of losing more games this year than they did in Rhule's debut. The team went 5-11 last year and is 5-9 through 14 games this season. That means he's 10-20 since joining the franchise -- tied for the worst record among head coaches hired in 2020 with the Giants' Joe Judge, as Person notes.

Rhule's long-term future could hinge on what happens at quarterback. He signed off on a big-money deal for Teddy Bridgewater in 2020, only to trade Bridgewater and acquire Sam Darnold from the Jets this offseason. He then spearheaded a reunion with former MVP Cam Newton this November, but the team has gone 0-4 since welcoming Newton back under center.

Carolina finishes the 2021 season with two games against the Buccaneers and one against the Saints.