CHARLOTTE — After a 1-4 start to the 2022 season, Matt Rhule is no longer the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, the team announced Monday.
The move comes after a loss at home to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. The loss brought Rhule’s coaching record to 11-27, which is a .289 winning percentage.
Rhule was hired as the fifth head coach for the Panthers in January 2020 after successful seasons at Baylor University and Temple University. His first season as head coach led the Panthers to a 5-11 record; his second season brought a 5-12 record.
Discontent had been growing among Panthers fans, as Sunday’s game drew a large crowd of 49ers fans, along with boos from many Carolina followers. During a news conference Monday afternoon, Panthers owner David Tepper acknowledged that a change had to be made after Sunday.
“There might have been a little bit of loss of intensity on the field yesterday. I would say that’s probably evident versus the first four games,” Tepper told reporters, including Channel 9′s Phil Orban. “I have great respect for the fans and I do hear the fans, but ultimately, those that can’t be a reason why you make a change like this. But again, there’s numerous reasons why you make a change like this.”
Less than 24 hours after quarterback Baker Mayfield was spotted in a boot following the loss, Rhule was booted from the Panthers organization.
After Sunday’s game, players got emotional talking about Rhule in the locker room.
“All that stuff I heard today, you know, from fans and boos, all the red and ‘fire Rhule,’ and all that, he’s a strong cat, you feel me? And he’s got my respect ‘cause he don’t let that faze him. And he’s still coming in front of us here today to talk. And I’ve got respect for him,” Brian Burns said.
Who’s up next?
According to the Panthers, Rhule will be replaced “on an interim basis” by secondary coach Steve Wilks.
Wilks has a lengthy resume.
He was the defensive pass game coordinator and secondary coach for Carolina this season, and was formerly the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. He’s also a former defensive coordinator for the Panthers.
Wilks is an alumnus of both West Charlotte High School and Appalachian State University.
In April, Wilks joined a lawsuit against the National Football League and six teams, alleging racial discrimination in the hiring and retention of Black head coaches. In the suit, he claims he was discriminated against by the Arizona Cardinals in 2018.
Tepper said on Monday that he expects the team to continue to grow.
“Things take time, and as a former fan, I don’t want to hear that; [fans] want to win today and don’t care about anything else, and I understand that,” Tepper said. “I want to win too, but I do think we have made progress and we will make future progress.”
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