Steve Reed, The Associated Press
CHARLOTTE, NC — The Carolina Panthers fired head coach Matt Rhule on Monday, the day after the team suffered their fourth loss in five outings this season.
The first head coach sacked in the NFL in 2022, Rhule had just begun his third campaign at the helm of the team. He is leaving with around $40 million remaining on the guaranteed seven-year, $62 million contract he signed in 2020.
Sunday at home, the Panthers suffered a 37-15 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, whose fans have made Bank of America Stadium the stronghold of the 49ers on the East Coast.
In 38 games under Rhule, the Panthers went 11-27 overall, including 5-11 in 2020 and 5-12 last year.
Until then coordinator of the defensive game against the pass and instructor of the tertiary line at the Panthers, Steve Wilks will assume the interim until the end of the season. The 53-year-old Wilks spent one season in charge of the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. The team finished its campaign with a 3-13 record.
“No promises were made, but if he does an incredible job he should be considered,” Panthers owner David Tepper said.
The Panthers also fired two longtime Rhule assistants, defensive coordinator Phil Snow and assistant special teams coach Ed Foley.
Rhule did not immediately respond to voicemails and text messages forwarded to him on Monday.
Tepper, the second-richest owner in the NFL, kicked Rhule out of Baylor University with a contract offer notable for its length and the amount of money offered to a rookie NFL head coach.
Tepper will have to pay the amount of money left in the contract unless Rhule finds a new job. In such a case, the money Rhule gets will be deducted from what the Panthers owe him.
After Sunday’s setback, Tepper had been patient with Rhule. However, he became increasingly agitated and changed his mind on Monday.
“It’s a pretty funny thing, patience. If you ask the average fan on the street, they’ll say I’ve been very patient, Tepper said Monday. I think you have to show the right level of patience and look at the progress that has been made. Do we win more often? Are we progressing in several aspects? In all the situations we have spoken to, this was not the case.
After the game, Rhule didn’t want to discuss his job security because he didn’t want to take it personally.
Panthers officials hoped Rhule could turn the tide in his third year, as he had before that at the college level at Baylor and Temple.
Under Rhule’s reign, the team lacked stability at quarterback. In 2020, Teddy Bridgewater had been the starter while Sam Darnold and Cam Newton got starts last year.
During the offseason, the Panthers acquired Baker Mayfield. However, the former first-ever pick in the 2018 draft was poor and he ranks last in the NFL according to an ESPN quarterback performance rating chart.
Mayfield has completed 54.9 percent of his passes and is averaging less than 200 yards per game through the air, with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
This poor performance at the most important position on the field has increased the pressure on the Panthers defense in an unsustainable way. During Rhule’s reign, the Panthers posted a 1-27 record when conceding at least 17 points to the opposing club.