Did college football coaching landscape factor into Panthers firing Matt Rhule?


The hammer finally dropped on an NFL coach this season with the Carolina Panthers firing Matt Rhule on Monday.

Rhule was hired by the Panthers in January of 2020 after three seasons at Baylor. He found a lot of success at the college level with Temple and Baylor before making the jump to the NFL with Carolina.

With Rhule now back in the coaching pool, could he make a return to college football?

Rob Brown and Lonzo Writesel of the Audacy Original Podcast “Views from Mint Street” talked about Rhule’s firing and if the college coaching landscape may have played a factor.

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“After Nebraska fired their coach, after Wisconsin fired their coach, with Auburn rapidly moving towards firing their coach it is going to be a relatively lucrative job market for college football coaches this upcoming offseason. I do wonder a little bit if Matt Rhule didn’t go to Tepp and go ‘Look, Panthers fans are unhappy,’ I am sure that for Matt Rhule it gets old sitting on the field and hearing the ‘fire Rhule’ chants break out, right,” Brown said (9:00 in player above).

“I got to wonder if he was looking and going alright, they want me out, Tepp, you know you want me out. There are tens of millions of dollars to be made going back to the college ranks right now … if not hundreds of millions of dollars if I go and negotiate with the right team at the right time in the college ranks. Tepp, it’s time for me to go, just go ahead and pull the string.”

While the writing may have been on the wall for Rhule, going to your boss and asking to be fired isn’t something that many people would do.

“I’m not buying that,” Writesel said. “I don’t think you go up to your boss and go ‘I know you’re not happy with me, so why don’t you just go ahead and fire me so I can get another job,’ when that boss knows that if he lets you go he’s going to have to pay you a bunch of money to not work.”

However, there’s an interesting clause in Rhule’s contract that complicates things a little bit. He is owed over $40 million over the next four years by the Panthers. But if he gets a coaching job somewhere else, the Panthers will be off the hook based on Rhule’s future earnings.

“So if Matt Rhule was to go to Wisconsin or Nebraska or Auburn or Temple or Baylor or wherever and get a job, whatever he makes at that job would actually come off of the Panthers’ buyout,” Brown said.

This gives Rhule a few different options. He can either stay unemployed and make $10 million a year – which sounds pretty nice – or he can go elsewhere and possibly make more.

“He will likely make more money if he takes over as the head coach of Nebraska or Wisconsin, or maybe Auburn if they get rid of Bryan Harsin. He will make more money from that school than the buyout from the Panthers pays him,” Brown continued.

“If he’s got the opportunity to go back to the college level where he’s more comfortable, where he’s very clearly a better coach and competitor at, and make more money than he is making to not be the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, then that would make sense for me if Matt Rhule had already had contact with Nebraska or Wisconsin,” he said. “If he already knew that he was a frontrunner for a Big 10 job that was going to pay him Nick Saban-caliber amount of money. If he knows he’s got a job lined up that’s going to give him five years at $65 million, that job is more than the buyout for the Panthers, then in my opinion it would make sense for him to go Tepp, the fans don’t want me here, you don’t want me here, and I can go make $25 million more being a better coach somewhere else. Hasta la vista.”

Those are pretty big ifs, but they don’t mean it’s not a possibility. Rhule has fared much better at the college level than he did in the NFL.

Rhule turned a 2-10 Temple team in 2013 to a 10-4 and 10-3 team in 2015 and 2016 before leaving for Baylor. There he turned a 1-11 team into an 11-3 team from 2017 to 2019. Those 11 wins match his NFL total through two-plus seasons with a record of 11-27.

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