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'Now was the time,' Panthers owner David Tepper explains firing of head coach Matt Rhule

Matt Rhule went 19-20 as the Baylor Bears' head coach before leaving for the Panthers in 2020.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers announced on Monday they have parted ways with head coach Matt Rhule. 

The firing comes after the team fell to 1-4 with a home loss to San Francisco on Sunday. After the game, Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield was seen in a walking boot. He left the game in the fourth quarter following a sack. 

Panthers team owner David Tepper addressed the media on Monday about the firing. 

“There’s numerous reasons why you make a decision like that. Ultimately, I felt this was the time. Now was the time,” Tepper said. 

Tepper said the team has to "get over the hump." By that, he meant winning. He said he wants to get to the point that it appears the team is winning more than losing, season after season. 

Rhule leaves with an 11-27 record (.289 winning percentage). Carolina has lost 11 of their last 12 games under Rhule.

Here's a look at the team's records during Rhule's era. 

  • 2020: 5-11
  • 2021: 5-12
  • 2022: 1-4

Rhule spoke to media on Sunday following the loss to the 49ers. He let the room know he wouldn't be answering questions about his future with the team. 

“I hope you guys can understand that I’m here to talk about the game and I’ve always been forthright with you guys, so you know, I have nothing to say about that now…really just here to talk about the game…I would never make this about me," Rhule said. 

The 47-year-old Rhule had generally turned his college teams at Temple and Baylor around in his third season, but that bounce hadn't happened in Charlotte so far. 

Who will take over?

Panthers defensive pass game coordinator/secondary coach Steve Wilks will fill the role in the interim. The 53-year-old Wilks spent one year as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and six years on the Panthers staff from 2012-17. Wilks returned to Carolina as defensive pass game coordinator in February of 2022. 

“Look it’s good to have somebody internally that’s familiar with the team and with people in the building. Steve is a leader of men. He has experience as a head coach, and I thought he’s the best candidate in the building for that role,” Tepper said.

Learn more about interim head coach Steve Wilks. 

Credit: AP Photo/Brian Westerholt
Carolina Panthers defensive pass game coordinator Steve Wilks watches the team warm up before an NFL football game, Sunday, Sep. 11, 2022, in Charlotte, N.C.

What the players are saying: 

Some of the Panthers players also spoke Sunday on their head coach's future. 

“You can say what you want about him, but I’ve been around a lot of coaches and he’s somebody that has had my back. When you work hard and do the right thing, he’ll have your back and that means something for what it’s worth. I’m pissed that we can’t get it done for him and for the rest of our staff. We need to play better as players," running back Christian McCaffrey said. 

We also heard from defensive end Brian Burns. 

"People wanna blame him, and he takes all the blame because he’s a head coach, and he’s a standup guy, in my opinion. But that’s one of the reasons why we’re behind him so much," Burns said. 

Burns continued, "Me and coach, real talk, we talk a lot and talk about trying to find solutions as of why things aren’t working out, and like I said, I respect the man. He is a strong dude and really tough dude.”

How the fans are feeling: 

Panthers fans haven't been shy about how they've felt about Matt Rhule. On Sunday, several fans could be seen wearing 'Fire Matt Rhule' tee shirts. Not only that, but the 'Fire Rhule' chants were some of the only times Panthers fans were the loudest. 

Credit: WFMY
Carolina Panthers fans wore 'Fire Matt Rhule' tee shirts to the game against the 49ers. It would be head coach Matt Rhule's last game. He was fired the next day.

We snapped a photo of Bank of America Stadium on Sunday. It was filled with a lot of red, filled in by 49ers fans. Much of the blue space that you could see were empty seats in the stands. 

Tepper addressed the 49ers fan base during his Monday press conference, saying there were "too many red butts" in the seats at Bank of America Stadium. 

Credit: WFMY
A view of the Panthers-49ers game at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.


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