Matt Rhule had been involved with some NFL coaching searches over the last few years. Today, he decided to make the jump, taking the opening with the Carolina Panthers.
Rhule inherits a very interesting situation. In running back Christian McCaffrey, he has one of the best overall playmakers in the NFL right now, who is just entering his prime.
He also takes on a very interesting quarterback situation. Cam Newton is just a few years removed from winning the MVP award and leading the team to a Super Bowl. It is unclear whether he remains the team’s true franchise quarterback, though it seems more likely that he returns now than it did mid-season when Kyle Allen was impressing for the club.
If Newton is not the guy moving forward, Rhule will have a chance to draft a rookie quarterback some time in the next few seasons, in all likelihood.
Matt Rhule did an incredible job at Baylor in three seasons, taking the team from the dregs of the sexual assault scandal that led to Art Briles’ ouster, and essential banishment from major college football. After going just 1-11 in year one, Rhule just led the team to an 11-win season, and berths in the Big 12 title game and Sugar Bowl. This may have been his best possible opportunity to jump to the NFL, and he took it.
In an outgoing radio interview with ESPN-Central Texas‘ David Smoak, Rhule said that he felt that his ultimate job was getting Baylor back on the right footing, which he thought was done by the end of year one, and that the job in Waco “was done.”
Via The Athletic’s Max Olson:
“I came here with a purpose. I felt like I was called here for much more than just coming to coach football. I felt like I was here to, more important than anything else, get the football program back in line with the university. And I know we’ve done that. And I felt like we did that, really, after the first year. I would’ve been at peace saying ‘Hey, it’s time for me to move on’ after the first year. So there’s a different challenge ahead for me.
“I wasn’t sure when it was supposed to be, I wasn’t sure what I would do. I prayed on it, I thought about it, I talked to people about it. And in the end, I would’ve loved to have been here and coached those kids again. But they’re in good hands. They’ll win and they’ll continue to do things right off the field. I just felt like my work was done and it was time to go try to turn around another program.”
Baylor is certainly a much better job than Rhule found it, and should have the ability to make a good hire to replace him, given the resources they’ve shown they’re willing to commit to football.
Unfortunately, Rhule wasn’t able to inform his team of the move before news broke. That has become an increasingly rare thing afforded to teams.
I’m sure there are some annoyed Baylor fans with this Matt Rhule departure, but it is hard to blame him at taking this opportunity.