A great head coach can take a franchise to unimaginable heights. There are plenty of examples of this throughout the NFL. Just look at Bill Belichick in New England or Andy Reid in Kansas City. A coach does make a difference and that’s why they’re the first people to blame when shit hits the fan.
Matt Rhule is in his first season as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. I remember when Matt Rhule was hired for the vacant position almost one year ago. I thought this was an outstanding decision by the Carolina front office.
Carolina has struggled in 2020, but Rhule is beginning the transition process to turn this team into a Super Bowl contender. This is a bold statement to make, but I believe that Matt Rhule will lead the Panthers to their first Super Bowl victory within the next ten years.
Matt Rhule – The Resume
Matt Rhule has a terrific football resume, but I want to focus on his two stints as a head coach prior to Carolina. Rhule was the head coach at Temple from 2013-2016. After his success in Philadelphia, he then accepted a Power Five job at Baylor. He led the Bears from 2017-2019 until he made the transition to professional football.
Rhule took over for Steve Addazio at Temple. In Rhule’s first year with the Owls, the team went 2-10 and tied for 9th in the American Athletic Conference. Rhule was a great recruiter and started building a winning culture in his first season at Temple. This didn’t show on the 2013 schedule, but the mold was beginning to form for future success.
In 2014, Temple went 6-6 and had a conference record of 4-4. Rhule’s passion was contagious and it showed on the field. The team’s marquee 2014 win came over #21 East Carolina, but this was only the beginning for the Owls.
In 2015 and 2016, Temple took home back-to-back American Athletic Conference titles and racked up 10 wins each season. Rhule finished his stint at Temple with a record of 28-23 before moving onto the Big 12 Conference as the leader of the Baylor Bears.
The same program progression that occurred under Rhule at Temple took place at Baylor. The Baylor football program was nauseating to watch before Rhule took the job. The team only won one game in his first season as head coach. However, the players bought into his coaching philosophy. In 2018, the team went 7-6 and claimed a victory in the Texas Bowl over Vanderbilt.
In Rhule’s final season with the program, the Bears went 11-3. They finished second in the Big 12 Conference and lost in the Sugar Bowl. The team finished as the 13th ranked program in America by the Associated Press. Following the 2019 season, Rhule accepted the head coaching position with the Carolina Panthers.
Matt Rhule – Coaching Philosophy
Rhule has the rare ability to turn around any program. Players buy into his philosophy which is rare in today’s coaching world. Rhule’s Player/Coach Oath is one thing that plays an immense role in his success. This oath holds everyone in his program accountable.
Players and coaches must promise to hustle, show courage, know their job, get the job done, and care about their teammates. At Temple and Baylor, these promises were displayed consistently. Temple and Baylor under Rhule played hard every week. The score didn’t matter. Both programs fought for 60 minutes every single Saturday.
When he talks about courage, he stresses to his players that they can’t be afraid to put their bodies on the line for their teammates. He implements a mindset that the team is bigger than any individual in the locker room. If players don’t buy into this philosophy, they won’t have much success under Coach Rhule.
You don’t bring two programs up from Ground Zero without having an attitude that’s contagious. Matt Rhule has a great football mind, but what makes him special is his ability to be a leader of men. That’s what takes football teams to a championship level.
Will Rhule’s College Success Translate to the NFL?
The NFL is different than college in the fact that players are paid to perform. Not all college coaches have success in the NFL, but I don’t believe this will be the case for Matt Rhule. The Panthers are 4-9 this season. The record doesn’t reflect this but, Carolina has been competitive in nearly every game this year. In addition to this, Carolina has been without Christian McCaffery for the majority of the season due to injuries.
I’m seeing signs of year one at Temple and Baylor displayed every Sunday by the Panthers. The team doesn’t stop fighting until the final whistle blows. They may be coming up short, but winning takes time and it has to be learned. Matt Rhule knows how to win, and he understands the culture that needs to be built in order to make this happen.
Rhule was an outstanding recruiter in college. He can attract great free agents to Carolina that fit into his scheme and culture. The sky is the limit for the Panthers, and I don’t think they could’ve hired a better head coach.
Rhule loves football, but he really loves his players and that’s why he has had so much success. This winning mentality will translate to Carolina and it will be the reason that Rhule is able to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in the near future.
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