The 2021 season came to a close yesterday for the Carolina Panthers, as they fell to the Tampa Bay Bucs 41-17, to finish the season with 7 straight defeats, and finish with an overall record of 5-12. The Panthers became the first team in NFL history to start a season 3-0 and finish with 12 losses, as Matt Rhule is just 10-23 as an NFL head coach. Despite that glaring record, Rhule is likely to be back for a third season. That has many Panther fans in an uproar, as they want more, expect more, and deserve more, than what they've gotten since Tepper ran Ron Rivera out of town. In his recent rebuilding stops at Temple and Baylor, Matt Rhule's teams won 11 games, but that was after taking a step in Year 2. That's what separates his rebuild in the NFL as opposed to the college game, is that his team didn't take that step, making it hard to imagine they will do so next. CBS Sports analyst Bryant McFadden, joined Wilson & Norfleet earlier today, and he echoed that same sentiment:
At the start of the season, when Carolina was 3-0 everyone was singing the praises of Matt Rhule. The praises went as far as him being named as a candidate for the LSU and USC openings back in college when those jobs came available. Those praises can't be found these days as the Panthers are 5-11, as they enter their season finale Sunday, at Tampa Bay. It has gone as far as even at non Panthers events like the most recent Hornets game, "Fire Matt Rhule" chants erupted at Spectrum Center. Earlier this week, NFL Insider Ian Rapoport came to the defense of Matt Rhule on the Mac Attack, and today, ESPN studio host Kevin Negandhi, joined Wilson and Norfleet earlier today and came to the defense of the former head coach of Negandhi's alma mater. Here is what Negandhi had to say about Matt Rhule:
With the Panthers heading into the final week of the regular season out of the playoff race, the focus for the Panther fan base seems to be on positioning the team in the best spot in the draft to get a piece that this team desperately needs. Left tackle is the spot that most people are looking at with the Panthers top ten pick with names like Evan Neal, Ikem Ekwonu and Charles Cross amongst those that are being looked at in this range as part of a strong tackle class.
Monday Georgia takes on Alabama in a rematch of the SEC title game, as the two college football powers will face-off for the national championship, in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Tide routed Georgia 41-24 back in December to clinch their spot in the 2021 College Football Playoff. Both teams earned impressive wins in the semifinals, as Bama took down Cincinnati 27-6, and Georgia made quick work of Michigan 34-11, setting up the rematch. The biggest question entering Monday's game, is can QB Stetson Bennett IV lead Georgia to that elusive championship? The Bulldogs haven't won a national title since the 1981 season when Herschel Walker carried the team all the way. To help answer that question, Dari Nowkhah, SEC Network host joined Wilson & Norfleet earlier today, and had this to say:
The Tar Heel football team in 2021 was riddled with inconsistencies and the same looks as if it can be said for the Tar Heel basketball team so far this season. Following arguably the best all-around performance of the season against Boston College, the Tar Heels were picked apart on Wednesday night by a less than stellar Notre Dame, especially on the defensive end of the floor. The Fighting Irish shot 47.5% (29-61) overall on the night and 41.9% (13-31) from beyond the arc in what was another questionable effort defensively from the Tar Heel that left fans with something to desire.
It is safe to say that many Carolina Panthers fans have quit on QB Sam Darnold, and rightfully so, as Darnold has posted just 7 touchdowns to 12 interceptions this season. But given how much he is owed next season, it is likely that Darnold will at least be on the roster, and will enter the off-season as the favorite to start the season opener in 2022. One of the many tasks at hand for Matt Rhule this off-season is to hire an offensive coordinator, after firing Joe Brady during the bye week. Rhule mentioned after the firing, that he stepped out of his comfort zone when hiring Brady, and wants to get to playing his brand of football. No names have been mentioned yet for the position, as Jeff Nixon is currently holding that role, and potentially auditioning to be the next OC, but Ellis Williams joined Wilson & Norfleet this afternoon, and this to say about the play-caller, in regards to Sam Darnold being the signal-caller:
As we head towards the eighteenth and final week of the longest season in Panther history both figuratively and literally, all of the attention is focused on head coach Matt Rhule and whether or not the head coach will return for a third season. Following a 3-0 start, the Panthers have proceeded to lose 11 of the last 13 games and take a proverbial step back from the season that they had a year ago. Rhule currently has the worst record in the first 32 games of a coaching tenure in franchise history, as he sits at 10-22 heading into Sunday's meeting with the Buccaneers in Tampa Bay and as Joe Person of The Athletic reported on Friday, there is talk that David Tepper is unhappy and frustrated with the results based on the contract that he signed Rhule to when he brought him in.
Whenever a player decides it is time to move from college to go to the NFL, one of the first things that get mentioned is the legacy that player is leaving behind. Some are great, some aren't, but nonetheless, every player leaves a legacy. UNC QB Sam Howell announced last Saturday that he would be leaving UNC for the 2022 NFL Draft. That decision doesn't come as a surprise as Howell entered the season high among every NFL Draft board, a preseason Heisman candidate, and the QB of a preseason top 10 team. While Carolina stumbled to the way of a 6-7 season, Howell still continued his stellar play, as he will leave Chapel Hill, holding 21 school records. The Tar Heels though were just 20-17 in games started by Howell, which brings into question what will his lasting legacy be at UNC? Brendan Marks joined Wilson & Norfleet earlier today, to answer just that:
Sunday's loss to the New Orleans Saints may have been the Panthers eleventh loss in thirteen games but it seems like many around the league are still sold on the fact that the Panthers will be hanging on to head coach Matt Rhule for year number three. While there have been a lot of people that have seemed to come around to the idea of Rhule coming back, one guest on the Mac Attack earlier today said that this would be a bad move for the Panthers and owner David Tepper.
There was a lot of mixed reaction when the Panthers traded for Sam Darnold back during the 2021 off-season, to be the starting QB for the Panthers. While in New York, Darnold was maligned by poor coaching, little supporting talent, which led to him being one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL. Still, Matt Rhule saw something in Darnold, to make a move for him. After a 3-0 start, Rhule was looking like he made the right decision, but an avalanche of mistakes in the second against the Dallas Cowboys, brought back the Darnold everyone saw in New York, and it hasn't been the same since. This season, Carolina is 4-6 in games started by Darnold, as he has thrown for just 7 touchdowns, against 12 interceptions, as he has struggled to protect the football,even going back to his college days at USC. NFL writer for MMQB Conor Orr, joined Wilson & Norfleet earlier this afternoon, and had this to say about Darnold's play: