Carolina Panthers could be Super Bowl darkhorse or disappointment — both are somehow likely

What future for Matt Rhule?

What future for Matt Rhule?
Picture: beautiful pictures

The Carolina Panthers have the best chance about making one of this year’s top 10 draft picks, making it the fastest Super Bowl in a similar journey with the Bengals last season. The cuteness is easy to spot. A major injury to superstars Joe Burrow and Christian McCaffrey respectively along with an underrated and improving defence. The Panthers also offer the best odds of being the first NFL team to fire their coach this season. Wait, what?

You then. That’s right. Those quasi-oxymoronic statements actually complement each other. In the last two debate videos, fellow DJ Dunson and I appeared together, he chose Carolina to hold both of those titles. While I made the correct choice about which Jet Team got to this year’s draft class fastest to the Super Bowl and Dallas’ Mike McCarthy slipped early in the pink, his predictions of Matt Rhule led The Panthers to the NFC title and removing his belongings from the team facilities are each within reason.

The DJ picked up the Panthers for the first time, days after the NFL Draft, when their starter in quarterback was unknown. It was a choice beyond risk when Sam Darnold looked promising. Now then Baker Mayfield will start in Charlotte and NFC South will have a down year with rebuilding of Atlanta and New Orleans, and Tampa Bay has targeted AARP membership, an easy path to the knockouts that exist. Either Carolina capitalizes or things fall apart quickly and Rhule will likely go back to college ranks for her next job.

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There’s a perception Rhule is thinking about as an NFL head coach and it still doesn’t have a clear answer. A decade ago, he was the Giants’ assistant forward coach. The following year, he was hired as the head coach of Temple’s football team. His success in Philadelphia led to his first head coach contract at the Power Five Conference with Baylor. Rhule has incorporated that into her current work.

Rhule was only the head coach at Waco for three seasons. Baylor finished the season with a one-time winning streak in that span, an impressive 11-1. The Bears also lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game and Georgia in the Sugar Bowl to close out the season. His overall record as a college head coach is 47-43. Well, finding the next great NFL mind means trying different paths. It’s also clear Carolina took a risk in pulling early Rhule from the Big 12, a move that has resulted in a 10-23 record over the past two years.

Even with a seemingly horrible past, the future is bright. For a team that went 5-12 last year, projecting a deep playoff is rare and insane at the border, especially when a major Charlotte fix doesn’t come up. Carolina has a number of young works that should improve this season like the Terrace Marshall Jr. and winger Jaycee Horn. If Mayfield proves that Cleveland really held him back compared to showing off his rollercoaster potential, Carolina could advance deep into the knockouts.

Landing Mayfield was the Panthers’ needle-moving transaction and not much else is needed for on-field alignment. Finding and retaining a good quarterback is the single best move an NFL team can make. In the weaker NFC, which has fewer above-average QBs compared to the AFC, an in-form Baker gives Carolina a leg up. A healthy McCaffery would’ve taken the Panthers out of the top-10 draft spots and more toward the middle of the first round. With 14 teams making the NFL playoffs every year, picking No. 19 or later isn’t that far of a jump.

What doThere’s not a team with more untapped potential in the NFL than the Panthers. Failure to quickly grasp it and join the NFC’s elite likely leads to another head coach trying to build on Rhule’s missteps. Maybe without more miracles from Rhule, Panthers can be great. If a third-year changeover is Rhule’s thing, Carolina will be the surprise team of the season. I don’t see many lanes for the split between sucking and growing.

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