Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule will see his job under threat if there’s no response to his firing of offensive coordinator Joe Brady this week. Rhule needed to do something during his team’s bye week and firing Brady was what he felt was necessary.
The only surprise came in the form of Brady actually having the job until Sunday. Then again, Rhule isn’t someone who makes decisions on the fly and wanted to be sure he was making the right decision by studying film throughout the week.
According to the film, Rhule and Brady weren’t operating on the same wavelength, despite both men insisting on it over the past few weeks. It showed that Brady wasn’t ready to give up on the pass-first system and run the ball as Rhule wanted. It clearly hasn’t been working as Carolina has won just two out of their last nine games with a 5-7 record that leaves them with the slimmest of chances as it pertains to making it to the playoffs.
The season is getting closer to the Super Bowl and the odds do not favor the Panthers, not even close. The Panthers are a long 500/1 to win a championship this season, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tipped to repeat last term’s feat at 5/1 while the Kansas City Chiefs are 13/2 and the Arizona Cardinals at 7/1.
Brady was warned through a very public message after the Panthers lost to the Minnesota Vikings in mid-October.
“We have not committed enough to running it, and that’s going to change, I can tell you that right now,’’ Rhule declared after the loss. “You’ll see a vastly different look moving forward.’’
In their next game, however, the Panthers only ran the football 17 times in a shameful 25-3 loss to the New York Giants that didn’t see them score until the final minute of the third quarter. Rule sent another public message to the offensive coordinator.
“We needed more from the run game,’’ he pointed out.
Brady acquiesced in two of the next three games. A total of 47 rushes saw them beat the Atlanta Falcons 19-13 and another 37 helped them beat the Cardinals. But they reverted to old ways, rushing 21 and 18 times in games against the Washington Football Team and Miami Dolphins. Those ended up being losses.
The 32-year-old did not survive this and, on Sunday, was relieved of his post.
“I wish him the best and am very grateful for his time here,” Rhule said. “He’s done a lot to get us moving in the right direction. But this was something that I felt like, from a football perspective, we needed to do now. As we move forward, I’m going to count on our offensive staff to be very focused day by day, week by week.
“Everyone’s kind of assigned an area previously third down, red zone to game plan. They’ll continue to be in those areas. Jeff Nixon will assume responsibility, the duties of the offensive coordinator position. He’ll call the plays in conjunction with those guys. Obviously, as with everything in the organization, I’ll oversee those guys, and hope that we can play our best football as we move forward.”
Rhule said he had planned to meet Brady on Saturday but the coordinator was not available. He told reporters the firing was “purely football-related.”
“The decision was made. So I didn’t see any reason to wait,” he explained. “I felt that this was the right move. It was just purely football. This was in the best interest of us moving forward. I feel like we can play better on offense. That’s not about any one person or any one thing. But I just feel like this was the best way that I can help us move this forward offensively.
“We’ve got to coach our best and play our best these coming weeks. But I thought that with the bye week this was the appropriate time.”
While it seems like a necessary step, Rhule will likely be in the hot seat at the end of the season should the Panthers fail to make it to the playoffs, which seems like the most likely result. He also has to bear some of the responsibility as he allowed Brady control even after seeing the results.
Firing the coordinator is an admission of a mistake but Rhule claimed not to regret hiring Brady.
“When I took the job, I decided to be bold and step outside my comfort zone,” he said. “I certainly don’t look at that as a mistake.”