CHARLOTTE – The Panthers have found their next head coach in Matt Rhule, the former head man at Baylor University. Rhule will make the jump from the collegiate ranks to the pros and become the fifth head coach in Panthers franchise history.
Beyond all the X's and O's that define Rhule as a coach, there's a lot more Panthers fans need to know about their new signal caller, so let's get started:
Experience in a lot of areas
Is Rhule an offensive-minded coach or defensive-minded coach? Hard to say.
Rhule was a linebacker in college (more on that later) and he got his start in coaching with the defensive line and linebackers. But he eventually became quarterbacks coach at Temple and worked his way up to offensive coordinator before leaving to become an O-line assistant with the New York Giants. After that, Rhule returned to Temple as head coach, where he began building a reputation as a program builder and continued on at Baylor where he took the Bears to the Sugar Bowl in 2019.
If you ever caught Rhule on the sideline at Baylor last year, you may have noticed his unique wardrobe. Instead of a traditional polo shirt or quarter-zip, Rhule donned the same Nike hooded smock vest for every game in the 2019 season. The Bears finished the regular season 11-1 – their best record since 2014 – so, it's safe to say the "voodie" carries some special powers. We'll have to wait and see if the outfit makes the trip to the Carolinas, but the biggest question on everyone's mind is does it come in black and blue?
The Pennsylvania connection
Both Tepper and Rhule have strong ties to the state of Pennsylvania. Tepper was born and raised in Pittsburgh, before attending the University of Pittsburgh, while Rhule went to the rival Penn State. Now, the two have put aside their collegiate rivalry and come together in the Carolinas.
While he was at Penn State, Rhule walked on to the football team as a linebacker, getting the chance to learn the game from legendary head coach Joe Paterno. After bouncing around the coaching circuit post-graduation, Rhule eventually found a home at Temple in Philadelphia, where he spent 10 years coaching. During his time leading the Owls, Rhule brought Temple its first victory over Penn State since 1941.
At just 44 years old, Rhule ties former Panthers head coach Dom Capers as the youngest hire in franchise history who was also 44 when he was hired as Carolina's first head coach at the beginning of the franchise in 1995.
Around the league, the average age of the current NFL head coaches is 48.7 years old, so Rhule falls on the younger side of the spectrum.
A North Carolina tie
While Rhule was making his rounds early in his coaching career, he spent some time in the mountains of North Carolina in Cullowhee. In the early 2000s, Rhule coached at Western Carolina for four years, so his new start in the Carolinas won't be completely unfamiliar.
View pictures of Matt Rhule during his time as head coach at Baylor (2017-19) and Temple (2013-16). Photos courtesy of Baylor Athletics and the Associated Press.