Below is the full transcript of head coach Matt Rhule's introductory press conference on January 8, 2020, featuring an introduction from owner David Tepper and questions from the media.
Owner David Tepper introduction
Well, this is fun. Just a couple things to just reflect on this process which we just went through which was a little bit of a whirlwind sort of process. I want to thank a couple of people first. I want to thank Mike McCarthy for putting up with us in Green Bay when we went up there to see him. I want to thank Eric Bieniemy who we met up in Kansas City. I was pretty much hacking all over the place because I was in the emergency room the day before. I hope I didn't get him sick when I was up there. But it was that important to be up there. We planned to have this go on for a little bit longer, but then we went down to Waco, Texas.
We got down there and we pulled up to Matt Rhule's house…right behind Matt Rhule. He was pulling up from his trip to Mexico. He was in his shorts and his Mexico t-shirt or whatever. I don't know if he had a suntan or not. I helped him in with the luggage. And Julie had all this food out there which was just too much food. She was just feeding us all this stuff. Marty Hurney had about 25 meatballs there, just as an aside. And we started interviewing Matt. We were all sitting there interviewing Matt and it was me, Marty and Steven Drummond. And Marty's going with his toughness and his questions and we're about halfway through the interview and Marty Hurney starts melting down. And you could Marty and he's like 'I've gotta get into recruiting mode now.' So Marty goes from total interview mode to putting on the recruiting mode. And Steve and I looked at each other and looked at Marty and didn't say a word, and we just all went into recruiting mode because we knew we had something special. And something that we could build something up here. I was more than excited. I'm so happy that his family is up here today. I'm already trying to give him too much sugar, so I need to calm myself down. This is a great day. I just want to thank the Rhules for being up here.
Head coach Matt Rhule Opening Statement
Thank you very much. I appreciate you guys showing some of my past press conferences, now I have to cross a couple of things out because I really believe in what I believe. It was really humbling for me to sit there and see that. And then just to stand up here and see the outpouring of support from the community and from the organization. On behalf of my family, I thank you so much. Mr. Tepper. Mrs. Tepper. Dave and Nicole. I thank you so much for entrusting me with your prized football franchise. I can promise you this. I'll work each day with everything that I have. And I'll hire a staff that will work each day with everything that we have that makes you proud of your organization.
Mr. Tepper talked a little bit about it, but it was really clear from the moment we pulled up to our house. I got off the plane from Mexico. We had spent a couple of days there after the bowl game and I called Steven and said "we are a couple minutes away and we may be a minute late." I believe in process and doing things the right way. When you're trying to make a decision about moving your family and what job you're going to go to. You want to go to someone who does things right. When the owner, when Marty, the general manager, when they're already at your house before you get there, when they help you carry things in. When you see them sit there and talk to your kids. I sat there with my wife and I said, 'there's no doubt that we share a common vision. There's no doubt that we believe in doing things the right way. I thank you guys for the process. It's been so first class. I know that Mr. Tepper, Marty will truly be partners as we move forward.
For anyone that knows anything about me, they know that family is the most important thing to me. I would not be where I am today if it weren't for my wife Julie, my son Bryant, my daughters Vivienne and Leona. Years ago, Julie and I, before our son was born, we were at Western Carolina. My first recruiting trip I had strep throat. I called the coach thinking that coaches can have the day off, and I didn't know at the time that coaches don't have the day off. 'You have strep throat? That's too bad. You have to get to Charlotte to go recruiting.' So I got in the back seat of the car and Julie drove me to West Charlotte and I walked in and I talked to the coach and I did my job and she drove me all day around the schools of Mecklenburg county and then we drove back to Cullowhee. She's a special woman. I would not be able to be here. I would not be able to have success at Temple and Baylor if it were not for her and for my family now. Sometimes making a change is easier for the coach. I'm going to stay here and they are going to head back. I appreciate them. I appreciate all that they have meant to me.
My Mom and Dad who moved to Temple to be with us and moved to Baylor. They can't be here today, but I'm so grateful for them. Julie's dad who moved to Waco as well. We want to be a part of this family and we're grateful for the family that we have.
Why the call? Why the draw? Why do you want to take on this next chapter of your life? Coach, you had a great thing at Baylor, why did you want to go on to the NFL? And it's really simple to me. I start every decision in my life with why. I'll tell you this, I love the game of football. I was a kid that grew up in New York City and basketball all around me and from an early age, I loved the game of football. When my Dad was working, my Mom would take me out and I would say now as I ran a fly route and she'd throw the ball as far as she could and I'd go over and try to catch it. My Dad, once or twice a year, would drive me to Pennsylvania to Penn State to watch games. I love the game of football. And football has done so much for me in my life. I was able to go to Penn State and I was not a great player but I was able to, in some small part, contribute to that team. I was able to go on to get my Master's degree because of football. I was able to get into coaching. Football has brought me to all these places to meet all these people and it's brought me here today. It's a special game. It's the greatest game that there is. You walk into a locker room and there's guys of all ages, there's guys from all different parts of the country, there's guys of all shapes and sizes. Yet they come together to form a team and play the hardest game that there is to play. They play in bad weather. They play when they're injured. They play when they don't feel great. They find a way to get it done as a team. It's the greatest game that there is. As I sat here and tried to make a decision about my life, I said Matt 'what do you want?' I want to go and be a part of the greatest game at the highest stage, and I just had to figure out where.
I'm so excited to be a part of this community. I'm so excited to be a part of this team. Walking in, I just saw Steve Smith, and I'm thinking to myself, 'my goodness.' The people that have come before me. The greatness. I met Julius Peppers earlier, like Julius Peppers! The greatness of the men that have played the game for this franchise. I want to continue that and build that. I want to make sure the game is played the right way, each and every day, not just in the games, but on the practice field and in the meeting rooms. I want to make sure that we honor this game that has given so much to us. And that we build a team that cares about each other. That plays hard for each other. I think that all starts with me. So as I sit here, and I accept this tremendous opportunity, I just want you to know that I will work tirelessly each day to bring you guys a championship. To bring you a championship. Because that's what this region deserves. And that's what the players that came before us deserve. That's what the guys in that locker room, as I've had a chance to meet them, that's what they deserve.
As I said so many years ago, how do you do that? You just start building. One day at a time. I truly believe that everything counts and everything is important. The way that I park my car in the morning. The way that I walk to the practice field. The way that I watch tape. Everything that I do, everything that our players do, everything that everyone associated with the Carolina Panthers do. Everything has got to be our best, each and every day. When you live a life like that, when every day is important. Where no days are throwaways, you can be proud of the guy next to you. You can be proud of your effort. And most importantly, eventually success. And championships will come. I was looking for an ownership that believed that. I was looking for a general manger that believed that. That believed that life is not just about setting goals, it's about process. It's about the daily steps. The daily grind that you have to go through.
I want to define people and an organization that's tough. Keep Pounding isn't just a slogan, it's a way of life. When things are hard or when things are good, how you feel or what's happening can't affect your effort each and every day. I wanted to come be a part of an organization that believes that. I know that I've found that. We're going to have a tough, hard-working competitive team. Tough to me means that each and every day, no matter how we feel, no matter what the circumstances are, we're going to come to work and we're going to do our job and get it done. I want to have a hard-working team. A team that believes in relentless preparation. I want guys that love football. I want coaches that love football. That each and every day are searching for an edge. And then I want guys that are competitive, that want to be the best, whether we're playing Madden or we're playing in the championship game. They want to be the best each and every day, not just compared to the guy across from them, though that's important, but they want to be at their best. They want to be the very best that they can be at everything that they do. I think when you have that mentality in the locker room, you can be special. When you have it with your coaching staff, you can be really good. And when it starts with your owner and it starts with your GM, you can be memorable. That's what I found as we sat there and as we went through that process. A group of men that are committed to doing this the right way and doing it in a way that maybe hasn't been done.
To the people that work in the building. To the people that wake up each and every day trying to make sure that the Carolina Panthers are their best, I just want you to know that I just want to be a small part of what we're going to do together.
To the people in the community, I just want you to know that we are so excited to raise our kids here. We're so excited to give back to the community here. We want to be a part. A part…of this area.
And to the players, I want you to know that each and every day I'm going to give you my best. I'm not a perfect man, I'm just doing the best I can to be the best that I can be. But I want you to know that if I'm going to ask you to be tough, hard-working and competitive, I'm going to do that myself. I'm going to tell you when I'm wrong and I'm going to push myself to be the very best that I can be. I'm going to hire the best staff that wants to be here. I'm going to coach guys that want to be here. I want us to have not just a great season but a great team that endures forever. On behalf of my family, please let me say…Thank You.
If you'd just bear with me, I want to make sure that I thank all the players at Baylor. All the players at Temple. I would not be here if it were not for them. The guys that believed in me and bought into me. The guys in Texas that bought into this guy from Philadelphia. The guys in Philadelphia that bought into a coach they didn't know. All the coaches that worked with me. The staff, the administration at Baylor. The staff and administration at Temple. Mack Rhodes, Linda Livingstone, Pat Kraft…thank you so much. I had great, great, great partners at Baylor. I found great, great, great partners here in Marty and Mr. Tepper. And I look forward to working each and every day with you to make us the best organization in the National Football League. We've already started working. After I'm done, I'm going to take my suit off and get back to work. I promise you, you'll get my best. Keep Pounding.
View photos of new head coach Matt Rhule and his family as they depart Waco and begin their journey in Carolina.
On Cam Newton and the Panthers quarterback situation:
"To be quite fair, I probably haven't had a chance with regards to any player yet to talk to Marty and Mr. Tepper in terms of long-term vision. I would never want to speak out of school or uneducatedly. What I will say is this, I had a chance to talk to Cam yesterday and I have the utmost respect for him and what he's done, and I loved the way he talked to me, to be quite honest. He didn't want to talk about the past, he wanted to talk about the future. But other than that, I would much rather talk to those guys and get a feel for not just Cam, but all the players on the roster, and really have a good process moving forward for the entire roster."
On his history of turning programs around:
"When we took over at Temple, they were moving up in conferences. We had been in the MAC and we had gone into the Big East and then the American Athletic Conference, so we had kind of needed a reboot. When I went to Baylor, we were supposed to have 85 scholarship players. I started the first year with 45 that were inherited. To me, the key to being a great leader is not to make excuses and complain, it's just to get to work, figure it out. What we did both of those places is we found the guys that were going to fit. If they were freshmen, they were freshmen, and they were seniors, they were seniors. We found the guys that fit into that thing I talked about, being tough, being hardworking, being competitive, and we played them. We gave them experience, we played them through the adversity and my first year at Temple I was 2-10, my first year at Baylor I was 1-11, but we were a championship-caliber team in three years. I think the thing for me is, it's easy to talk about process, it's easy to say, 'Hey, these are the things we're going to do.' Will you still be saying that when you're having not a lot of success? I was able to do that twice. I learned a lot from that and I think our players, the biggest things I learned from those things is that the players learned in those years where we had adversity that I wasn't going to throw them under the bus. I wasn't going to talk bad about them. I wasn't going to say we're losing because. I was right there in it with them and our coaches were right there in it with them. And when we started to have success, they realized that, 'Hey, these coaches are for us,' because that's really what this is supposed to be. The coaches are there to help the players be their best. I'm going to say it, and I get caught up sometimes, but as we talked, I'm so committed to our players, and I know Mr. Tepper and Marty are so committed to our players having the very best in terms of sports science, in terms of recovery and regeneration. This should be a place that players say, 'I want to go there.' We practice hard and we prepare hard, but we do the things to extend your career and allow you to play at peak performance. I think our players saw that in those hard times and then they had success and we really had a great relationship."
On the transition from coaching in college to the NFL:
"I think any time you talk in global terms like that, it comes down to different people. I had a chance to be in the NFL, I worked under Tom Coughlin. It wasn't a real long experience, but I think it was a good experience. I think I went to be a college coach saying, 'Hey, this is how I'm going to do it.' I played for Joe Paterno, I worked for some great coaches, but I worked under Tom Coughlin. I went back to the college game, I said, 'OK, I'm going to do it this way.' Different than a lot of guys, I've kind of done it that way, and I think the players that you look at that I've had come out of Temple and come out of Baylor, we have a lot of guys in the pros. We have a lot of guys that get there and get second contracts and have had a lot of success. I think that's because I'm going to be demanding, but I'm going to be demanding of myself first. I'm going to want accountability, but I want accountability of my staff and I first. Players that I've had, when you can communicate with them, when you have the same vision, that's the one thing as I've talked to guys so far. Every guy that I've talked to has reminded me that, 'Hey, coach, we're all in this for the same thing,' and I completely agree. I think the college thing is maybe true for a lot of guys, but I think for me, I've had some unique experiences."
On his coordinator hiring process:
"I'll have a diverse staff and a mixed staff. I have, I think, one of the best staffs in football at Baylor. A lot of my guys got to Baylor from the NFL, so a lot of guys have NFL experience. I think two things, there are a lot of guys that I know that are interested in coming here, and there are a lot of people that are really excited about this organization. They're really excited about what Mr. Tepper and Marty have already started. I'm getting calls from guys that say, 'Hey, I want to be a part of that,' because I think what you see here is you see alignment. You see an owner, you see a general manager and a head coach that aren't forcing themselves to do things. They see things the same way and people understand that that's how you win in this league. When everyone's on the same page, you're going to be successful. I'll probably get here, I'm going to start working with Marty today or tomorrow, whenever, and start working on getting some people here. The one thing I've learned and the advice I've gotten from so many people in this league is don't rush. Get the right people, so that's what we'll do."
On the sport science aspect influencing his decision to come here:
"It was nothing really about, 'Hey, are you going to build?' As we started talking, the worlds of sports science, the worlds of analytics are things that I'm interested in and as we talked, we had just a common interest in those things. I think the big thing about (them) is they're always evolving, and I think it's just a commitment to the application of things. Like, we have Catapult at Baylor, they have Catapult here, where they monitor the loads on players. It really just comes down to the application of it and can you get alignment from your football staff to your sports medicine staff to your sports science staff. We didn't get into great detail about, 'Hey, we're going to do this, this and this,' it was just more like, this is what I believe in, this is what they believe in, and to me, I just believe in common vision. If we believe in our players having the very best, then we can be really successful. I think when you're in college football, things people don't realize is we don't get to draft anybody, and I don't get to offer anybody a signing bonus. We're all trying to get the best stuff, so we were way ahead of a lot of other college teams in terms of the sports science that's at Baylor, so I've kind of gotten very used to it."
On what his 'aha' moment of clarity was in the process:
"It was a long meeting so there was a lot of time there to talk. For me, I'm a football coach and we're dissecting this and we're talking. And it's just talking. It wasn't scripted. And I think that was one of the biggest things that I took away from it. I could sit there and talk to these guys for probably five more hours because we are having a great conversation. Julie is kind of in the room, out of the room. My 'aha' moment was when they left and she was like 'what are you doing? You need to go work for them. That's you.' We've had lots of opportunities over the years in colleges and she's always been right. She's always been right. We've taken some jobs where people are like 'why are they going to Baylor?' She's always said 'Go here because of those people.' And the second 'aha' moment was when my son came downstairs and he asked if we were going to Carolina and I said no, and he stormed out of the house. He said, 'you had one job.' He wanted to be here."
On his initial thoughts of the roster:
"Because I've kind of been involved in the game and a couple different things, I'm kind of looking at a couple different rosters, so I can't talk in great depth. I know some key pieces. Yesterday I tried to watch some games. I watched three, four, five games. My family's going to go back tonight and I'm going to stay here, and my next steps are to start to get to know the guys, really start to watch the tape and then hire a staff. I hate to talk without having a great sense of what I'm going to say, but I've started that process and started to get to know some of the guys as well."
On reports of his conversations with the Giants:
"I never talked to anyone but them (the Panthers). I probably don't want to say anything that would come across in a bad way about anybody. So, I just want to talk about them, but my agent talks to everybody. I'm sure he's had lots of conversations. He's representing a lot of guys probably also too that are in all these job mixes. For me, when they offered the job – and the biggest thing I'll say is when they offered a chance to be here for seven years, it spoke to me about the belief that we were going to do this together and do it the right way, and there was no doubt, and there was really no doubt the night before for my family, and there was really no doubt for me after just having that synergy that we were going to be here. My agent, I know he talks to different people, but for me, the only person I talked to was Mr. Tepper."
On if he plans to bring in a veteran coaching presence with years of NFL coaching experience:
"Not really in terms of coordinators, or things like that, because the league has seen – there's been great coordinators who are 60, and there's great coordinators who are 28. So, it's not really that. I think one of the key pieces for me is to bring a veteran guy that can really work with me and mentor me. I've always done that everywhere I've been. I've always tried to have somebody to be there to speak truth to me, speak truth to power, that can be kind of a right-hand guy. I want to have a great mix, and at the end of the day, all I really care about when I hire assistant coaches is are they great teachers. That's really what this game is about. It's about getting players to play their best, and the best way to do that is to have guys who bring out the best in their players. Old, young, none of those things matter to me. I don't have to know them. I just think when you meet guys who are great teachers who bring out the best in others, you kind of feel it. So, we're going to try to do that, but I will try to bring in someone who's been around, and lots of guys like that have reached out to me already, which is great."
On how he and David Tepper have defined success for the 2020 season and what sustained success looks like:
"For me, what I would say is sustain success to me is kind of what I said earlier with that mindset that we want to be great at everything. You're never going to hear me – I'm going to talk about winning Super Bowls, but really the goal to me is to be the best at everything, and I think if you are elite at everything then eventually Super Bowls will come, and you can have sustained competitive excellence. To me, without knowing the roster, without knowing the things that'll come up next year, what I do know is if we're an 8-8 team, we should be best 8-8 team ever. If we're a 10-6 team ever, we should be the best 10-6 team. I don't know what those things are yet. I'm going to be just so processed driven that I'm really just going to worry about tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. I think that's where I felt great about the conversations is that we weren't talking about short-term things. We were talking about long-term, we were talking about building, we were talking about process, we were talking about doing things the right way. I think so often people make mistakes because they set short-term goals, and I don't believe in that. I believe in setting a long-term goal, like we want to bring a championship, but then each and every day you have to wake up and say, 'What can I do today to make that happen?' That's true for everything in life, in my mind, and it's certainly true for bringing at championship to the Carolinas."