The Carolina Panthers have hired former Baylor Bears head coach Matt Rhule, which is the best decision the franchise has made in quite some time.
Fortunately for Carolina, Rhule is no stranger to a turnaround. In 2013, he got his first head coaching gig at Temple, which is far from an acclaimed football school. Before Rhule, Temple had only 1 10-win season in the history of the program.
Once he took over as the program’s next head coach, he was able to transform Temple Owls football. Best of all, Rhule was even able to defeat in-state rival Penn State for the 1st time in over half a century. It was evident that Rhule’s unique offensive system and gritty persona changed the culture at Temple, and they appeared to be the next great Group of 5 power.
Before they could achieve that success, Rhule did the unthinkable, and took what many believed as the least desirable job in the nation: in Waco, Texas, to be the next head coach of the Baylor Bears. In years prior, Baylor would have been a great job to have. Throughout the decade, the Bears had established themselves as one of the better teams in the Big 12 and were only becoming more relevant on the national stage.
Yet, in the spring of 2016, the university was ravaged with allegations of failing to report multiple sexual assaults involving members of the football team. The entire coaching staff was turned over, recruits decommitted, and the NCAA slammed Baylor with a multitude of harsh sanctions.
To think Baylor would be relevant within the next few decades was almost unthinkable, and many thought these events were the university’s death sentence. Enter Matt Rhule. Rhule transformed Baylor football, a program thought to be in shambles for decades, and instead had the Bears in the Big-12 Championship in just his third season at the helm.
What Rhule was able to do was nothing short of miraculous; Much of the recruits that he had at his disposal were three stars or less, and furthermore, he had a lack of them due to the aforementioned sanctions from the NCAA. For example, Bears 3-star QB Charlie Brewer was not heavily recruited coming out of high school. Baylor was actually Brewer’s only Power 5 offer.
Rhule was able to build a team of mid-tier recruits like Charlie Brewer and coach them up into players that far exceeded their star ratings. Other teams in the Big 12, like Texas, Oklahoma, and TCU, bring in top 30 recruiting classes annually. Then there’s Matt Rhule, who was able to take his subpar talent in Baylor and go toe-to-toe with all of these programs, eventually helping his team become a new force in the conference.
In terms of the team character and culture, Rhule seems very genuine and charismatic as a person, and someone you would run through a wall to play for. Carolina may appear to lack talent on paper, but no one has been better recently at getting their players to outperform their talent level than Matt Rhule.
With Drew Brees and the Saints continuing to get older, as well as the Falcons and Buccaneers in flux, it’s clear that the NFC South is becoming wide open. Mark my words, within the next 3 seasons, Carolina will be the new kings of the NFC South. There is also no doubt in my mind that within the next 5 seasons, they might as well become the kings of the NFL.