It only took five weeks into the 2022 season for the first NFL coach to be fired. That unenviable distinction went to Matt Rhule, who was fired by Panthers owner David Tepper less than 24 hours after Carolina's 37-15 home loss to the 49ers that dropped the Panthers to 1-4. Rhule, who was a college head coach for seven years prior to going to Carolina, went 11-27 in less than three seasons as the Panthers' coach.
A Pittsburgh native and former Steelers minority owner, Tepper has now fired two coaches in-season since acquiring ownership of the Panthers in 2018. He fired Ron Rivera, the most successful coach in franchise history, with four games left in the 2019 season. Carolina is 23-47 under Tepper's watch. They went 12-16 with Rivera as coach and 0-4 under interim coach Perry Fewell during the last month of the 2019 season.
"I don't think it ever had a real culture of winning," Tepper said of the franchise as a whole since its inception, via CBS Sports NFL Insider Jonathan Jones.
Tepper said that he felt like "now was the time" to fire Rhule as opposed to waiting until after the season to make the switch. He acknowledged that Sunday's blowout loss to San Francisco played a role in his decision.
"There might have been a little loss of intensity on the field yesterday [compared] to the first four games," Tepper said.
The Panthers trailed 17-3 at halftime after Emmanuel Moseley recorded a pick-six off quarterback Baker Mayfield with 43 seconds left in the half. When the Panthers threatened to make it a game after Christian McCaffrey's touchdown run made it a one-score contest three minutes into the second half, they gave back momentum after Deebo Samuel scored minutes later to increase San Francisco's lead to 15 points. The game was never in doubt after that, as the 49ers answered the Panthers' final two scores -- both field goals -- with touchdowns.
As for what he learned from the experience, Tepper said that "a better balance" between the coach and general manager would be "more appropriate" moving forward. Rhule had carte blanch regarding personnel and roster decisions during this two-plus years as Panthers coach.
Tepper added that he isn't sure whether he would give out another seven-year contract to a coach. He said that, at times, he has been both too patient and impatient regarding his coaches.
"I'm still learning, quite frankly," Tepper said.
Tepper will go through an expansive search to identify his team's next head coach. But he won't rule out considering Steve Wilks --the team's interim coach for the rest of this season -- for the job if the Panthers' on-field product improves over the remaining 12 games.
"He's in a position to be in consideration for that position," Tepper said of Wilks, via Pro Football Talk. "I had a talk with Steve, no promises were made, but if he does an incredible job, he has to be in consideration."