The Carolina Panthers have former Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy and also intend to speak with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, but they're also hot in pursuit of some high-profile names from the college football ranks as they look to fill their head coaching vacancy. Not long after CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora reported the team with Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald, ESPN's David Newton has reported the Panthers plan to speak with Baylor head coach Matt Rhule instead.
Panthers owner David Tepper has talked somewhat skeptically about the ability of college coaches to make the jump to the NFL, La Canfora said over the weekend, but Fitzgerald and Rhule were two coaches who "definitely appealed to him." Newton, meanwhile, reported Sunday that Tepper has not ruled out hiring an NCAA coach to replace Ron Rivera, who was dismissed early this month after nearly nine seasons at the helm of the Panthers staff.
The 44-year-old Rhule still has a Sugar Bowl to coach on New Year's Day, but he's been a popular subject of speculation as NFL teams prepare for coaching turnover. A former Penn State linebacker who spent more than 15 years as an assistant coach, mostly for Temple and Western Carolina but also with the New York Giants in 2012, Rhule first became a head coach in 2013, when he succeeded Steve Addazio at Temple.
After four years there, in which he guided the Owls to back-to-back 10-win seasons and East Division titles, the New York native took over at Baylor, where he's turned a program that went 1-11 in 2017 into a conference power, guiding the Bears to an 11-2 mark in 2019 after coaching them to a winning season in 2018.