The Panthers made a very bold but also risky, expensive hire of longtime college coach Matt Rhule of Baylor Tuesday. And, there are numerous recent examples, including with two of our state NFL teams, that this move will likely backfire.
First, Rhule officially is getting a 7 year deal that will pay him a reported $60 million depending on incentives reached.
Panthers are giving former Baylor HC Matt Rhule a seven-year – seven year – deal worth $60 million that with incentives could be worth up to $70 million, per league sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 7, 2020
That is staggering and remarkable considering that Rhule has never won anything significant at the college level and has only been involved in the NFL for one season as an assistant offensive line coach a decade ago. That salary puts him in the top five among coaches in the NFL.
Yes, Rhule deserve credit for having turned around the Temple program’s fortunes and putting them in as a contender in the American Athletic Conference four years ago. However, they didn’t win the conference championship, much less, did he do it on the higher level.
Certainly, not as UCF did the previous couple of seasons, where they won the AAC and then, playing in a “New Year’s Six” bowl game. And, the Knights won one of those bowl games head-to-head with Auburn two years ago.
Rhule moved into the “Power Five” conferences, by taking the Big XII job at Baylor, and they won only one game in his first season of 2017. Yes, the Bears had a tremendous transformation this season getting to 9-0 but again, lost their most significant games to Oklahoma (twice), including in the Big 12 title game, and then, to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl (Rhule above) last week.
Rhule’s name has been circulated around NFL job interviews for the last couple of years, and it’s no secret that the New York Giants were very interested in talking to and potentially hiring him. But, not before Carolina and new owner David Tepper laid out the huge guaranteed money to secure Rhule for them in Carolina.
Sure, there is optimism that he can turn the fortunes around. And, the Panthers obviously have a huge decision to make about the future of QB Cam Newton, who while he has had previous great success, is now injured and expendable because of a hefty 2020 price tag.
But, the bigger question is: can Rhule command the attention of NFL veterans and succeed at the Pro level, when most of the others who have tried this, even recently, have not been able to do it?
Very similar to Rhule was the Buccaneers disastrous hiring of Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. Like Rhule, Schiano had never won anything at Rutgers, despite having turned their fortunes around from being awful to being mediocre-to-good during his tenure.
It was obvious time and again, that Schiano did not know how to deal with professional players/situations. This despite him having been an NFL assistant for a couple of seasons with Dave Wannstedt in Chicago.
The Bucs unraveled under in the middle of Schiano’s first season of 2012 by losing five straight games. And, they never recovered, losing the first eight games of 2013. Then, it was a foregone conclusion that Schiano would be fired at the end of his second year.
Of course, late Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga lured Nick Saban from LSU to Miami in 2005. However, Saban, unlike Rule and Schiano, had won a National Championship at an SEC program with the Tigers. Further, Saban had been a good defensive coordinator for three seasons in the NFL with Bill Belichick in the early 1990s with the Cleveland Browns. That even included them winning a playoff game one year.
Still, Saban had the same issue of being able to communicate and motivate professional players the same way that he could with college players. And, he and the Dolphins realized after two years, that he wanted to be back in the college game.
Alabama came calling and the rest is obviously history, as Saban won five National Championships with the Tide in nine seasons.
Still, there are other examples that put up a “caution flag” about Rhule’s Tuesday new job.
Look recently at Chip Kelly having had tremendous success at Oregon, including winning the Pac-12 Title, playing for the National Title against Newton and Auburn in 2010. Then, the Ducks won the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl in back to back years, 2011-12.
Kelly was lured to the pros by the Philadelphia Eagles. And, his up-tempo spread offense had success with Michael Vick at quarterback for his first season (2013) and the team made the playoffs. However, after missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record in 2014, the Eagles were terrible on defense the next year and he was quickly fired with a game remaining at 6-9.
Kelly was quickly grabbed by the 49ers, but that situation flamed out in just one disastrous year with a disastrous 2-14.
Another relevant example is the Arizona Cardinals hiring Kliff Kingsbury, the former Texas Tech coach, this past season. With no previous experience, even as an assistant in the NFL, and like Rhule and Schiano above, never having won anything at Texas Tech and a barely .500 record, Kingsbury stepped into the NFL.
A big motivation was the Cards having the #1 overall pick and taking OU quarterback Kyler Murray for their first season. And, yes, the Cardinals won some games early, but they finished the year 2 – 7 for an overall 5 – 10 – 1 record.
It’s obvious that if Kingsbury and the Cards aren’t dramatically better next year, there will be calls for Arizona to go get a proven NFL coach, the same way as with the other situations above.
There are other examples, including Gators legend, Steve Spurrier being hired early in this century by Dan Snyder in Washington. Again, Spurrier had won a National Championship at Florida in the best conference in the country, the SEC.
He also had briefly been an NFL QB with the 49ers and the expansion Bucs and had been a successful coach of pro players with the Tampa Bay Bandits of the USFL.
Yet, similarly to the problems above, couldn’t handle NFL personnel and coaching situations and was a dismal failure (12-20) that was gone from the Skins in just two years.
And, while many point to Pete Carroll’s success with the Seattle Seahawks, including a Super bowl win, it should be noted, again, that Caroll won multiple National Championships at Southern Cal immediately before Seattle. And, more importantly, he had been a successful defensive coordinator in the NFL and even head coach, with the New England Patriots. That’s where he put them in the Pats in the playoffs before coming to USC.
Also, Jim Harbaugh was a successful NFL QB, including winning playoff games, and then, a highly successful college coach at Stanford, including an Orange Bowl win with Andrew Luck at QB.
Then, he took over the 49ers in 2011 and eventually, led them to the Super Bowl.
Again, Carroll and Harbaugh were proven before with college jobs by winning big at them and they both had been in the NFL with success.
Not, the same with Rhule’s hire for the Panthers.
Concluding, Rhule got a 7-year deal in part, because Carolina will more than likely take at least a season, if not two, to be back to playoff contention. This is depending on what they do at quarterback? And, they must address several other needs with free agency and drafts.
But, that larger question that we have laid out above is: With too many examples, even in this century, of college coaches without much success at their level and almost zero or no experience in the NFL fizzling out inside of two or three seasons, why should we believe this will be different?
Carolina and their new owner believes it will be.
But, time will tell and maybe, quickly.
Who is headed to Miami and Super Bowl XLIV after Sunday?
Two games remain to determine whom will tee it up at Super Bowl XLIV in Miami. Will the upstart Titans pull off a third straight upset in Kansas City? Can the Packers get revenge over a San Francisco team that humbled them in late November?
We know this: the unexpected has already happened several times in these playoffs and don’t rule out the upsets Sunday.
First, the Baltimore Ravens had been favorites to win Super Bowl LIV for some time now. Pretty much since they destroyed the Pats in the middle of the season. They had already beaten the K.C Chiefs and a handful of other solid teams. And, once they defeated the the 49ers in December, it looked like the Ravens were the best team in the NFL .
Then, last Saturday night, this happened:
The Ravens appeared to be the most complete team in the NFL, but that’s the thing about the playoffs, all it takes is one bad game and you’re out.
The Tennesse Titans went into M&T Bank Stadium and surprised them last Saturday night. Jim Harbaugh got outcoached and the Ravens hit a brick wall of a Mike Vrabel defense. So, now they are gone.
But who fills the void, now that the supposed “best team in football” got eliminated, and whom is the favorite to win it all now headed in to Championship Sunday?
The Titans and veteran QB Ryan Tannehill are on an epic run. They are the beast slayers, so to speak. But it isn’t them. Aaron Rodgers is arguably the best QB in the NFL, and the Packers have won six games straight games after last week’s close one at Lambeau over Seattle.
However, it’s not them either. The 49ers are in a position to win it all for the first time since 1994 and they have the best pass defense in the league. But again, it’s not them.
That leaves just one team: Andy Reid and his “Kool-Aide-Colored” Chiefs.
Kansas City leads the Super Bowl Futures odds charge at +135. The SF 49ers can be found around +165 and both the Packers are Titans are sitting at +650. So, Las Vegas has the Chiefs to win, with the 49ers close at second.
But does this mean the Chiefs and their perennial runner-up coach, will win out?
Many smart sports handicappers have their picks with the Titans to at least keep the game close enough to cover the point spread Sunday. More like the rolling Titans to win outright.
The same goes for the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers game. The Niners are big favorites, but we are dealing with a team whose recent situation performance shows, they would actually win –but maybe not cover.
So, we have two conference championship games with clear, heavy favorites … that could both lose.
The Chiefs showed us a few things in their incredible Division-Round win over the Houston Texans. The first thing they showed us is that their defense and special teams units are vulnerable. This was made apparent when the Texans went up 24-0 and looked to be dominating the game.
Next, the Chiefs showed us that they can adjust better than anyone. They shook it off and put up 28 points in the second quarter to retake the lead. Then they poured it on in the 3rd and 4th, adding 23 more to the board, showing us that they are still the best second-half team in football.
That said, the Texans are not the Titans. They showed us this season that they really only get consistent wins against sub-500 teams. Houston ranked way back at No. 23 in the league for scoring defense (and way worse in their last 3 games allowing 35 per affair) and 26.7 overall while playing on the road.
The Titans on the other hand, only allow 16.6 points per game on the road. They have a top-ten defense overall and have been absolutely stellar in recent games. In their last 3, they’ve only allowed 13 points per game. KC has allowed 18.3 per game in their most recent three.
On the flip side, the Super Bowl favorite has scored 29 points per game at home and averages the same overall. But, the Titans have upped their average to 25 points per game both overall and on the road. So, we should see a very close game, indeed.
Can the SB LIV favs beat the Titans and go on to win it all in South Florida? Perhaps, but it won’t be easy.
Titans QB Tannehill on Wednesday- “I wanna win”
The Tennessee Titans are readying to play in the AFC Championship game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. And on Wednesday, former Dolphins quarterback now turned Tennessee starting QB, Ryan Tannehill, met with the media about the opportunity for he and his teammates to play their way into Super Bowl 54.
And, Tannehill made something abundantly clear again, it doesn’t matter about his own personal pass attempts or stats, he’s mainly concerned with getting another victory:
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) January 15, 2020
“We’ve put in a lot of work to win multiple ways this season. You don’t forget how to throw and catch…. Being a quarterback, I love throwing the ball, but I just wanna win.”
Tannehill has only thrown the ball a total of 29 times with 15 completions in the Titans two playoff wins over the Patriots and the Ravens. So, it’s obvious the Tennessee’s game plan of grinding teams with the run and Derrick Henry bruising them, and, then, playing sound, physical and opportunistic defense has worked thus far.
However, Tannehill also acknowledged Wednesday that it might be different against the Chiefs, who certainly are more explosive then either New England or Baltimore on offense. The Texans found that out firsthand at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday, when their 24 – 0 lead evaporated in the second quarter and Patrick Mahomes and Co. proceeded to put 41 unanswered points on them.
Now, Tennessee’s defense is better than Houston’s overall and it’s one of the big reasons why they’re still alive at this stage of the postseason. Still, Tannehill may be called upon to make a bunch of big throws and plays in this game if the Titans are going to have any chance.
His first start was at home against the Chargers and threw for 312 yards and two touchdowns in a win. Tannehill then led them on a run of winning six of seven starts total. And, in every one of those games, Tannehill threw for either at least 300 yards or for at least two touchdowns or a combo of both.
His play has been consistent, and at times, very good for Tenneessee.
Further, when you total up his 11 games started, Tannehill now has an 8 – 3 record (including these two playoff wins), and he has only one game, a 30 – 20 loss at Carolina in early November, where he had two interceptions.
One, essentially “bad game” in 11 starts.
And, since that November Carolina game, Tannehill has thrown only 3 picks total, while throwing 19 TDs. Oh, and Tennessee is now 7 – 2 over those next nine games.
And, one of those games is the previous win over Kansas City in Nashville on November 10th, when Tannehill threw for 181 yards and two scores and no picks.
Now, they will head to frigid K.C. to play the biggest game of Tanehill’s and several of the young stars on offense’s biggest professional game ever. And, you get the sense that the veteran signal caller whom the Dolphins gave up on this off-season, is ready to throw it 10 times or 40 times to try to get it done.