Since David Tepper took ownership of the Panthers in 2018, the NFC South squad has posted four straight losing seasons, and now three straight with at least 11 losses. Matt Rhule has been the head coach for the last two, and it's possible his 2021 campaign will be even worse than his 5-11 debut in 2020, with Carolina looking to avoid a 12th defeat against the rival Buccaneers on Sunday. Even so, Tepper will retain Rhule for a third year as head coach in 2022, as CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora reported in late December.
"The odds of this billionaire standing pat after (another) lost season (in 2022) -- should it come to that -- are bleak," La Canfora wrote. "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."
ESPN's David Newton echoed the sentiment Saturday, reporting that Carolina intends to keep Rhule regardless of what happens in Week 18, and that the former Baylor head coach "will begin a thorough search for an offensive coordinator next week." Rhule, of course, dismissed Joe Brady, his handpicked offensive coordinator upon arrival in the NFL, this October.
The Athletic's Joe Person first reported of Rhule's job security ahead of Week 16, noting that while an impatient Tepper had yet to publicly confirm Rhule's return, all signs pointed to the coach getting at least a third season to prove himself. Best known for his quick turnarounds of college football programs at Temple and Baylor, Rhule signed a seven-year, $62 million contract to replace Ron Rivera as the Panthers' coach in 2020, with Tepper reportedly also buying out Rhule's Baylor deal for $6 million.
Carolina went 5-11 in Rhule's first year with Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback. This season, despite an improved defense, his Panthers are 5-11 entering Week 18, with Sam Darnold and Cam Newton -- the latter in his second stint with the franchise -- trading starts under center.