Carolina Panthers new head coach Matt Rhule is billed as a builder, motivator and innovator coming out of Baylor.
The first step in building any NFL program is the quarterback.
During his introductory press conference Wednesday, Rhule was asked about the question on the mind of every Panthers fan: What is the plan with Cam Newton?
"I probably haven't had a chance with regards to really any player to get to talk to Marty [Hurney] and Mr. Tepper in terms of long-term vision, so I would never want to speak out of school or uneducatedly," Rhule responded. "What I will say is this: I had a chance to talk to Cam yesterday, and I have the utmost respect for him and what he's done, and I love the way he talked to me, to be quite honest. He didn't want to talk about the past. He wanted to talk about the future. But other than that, I would much rather talk to those guys and kind of get a feel for not just Cam but all those players on the roster and really have a good process moving forward for the entire roster."
The question about Newton's future in Carolina has swirled for months. The former NFL MVP missed all but two games of the 2019 campaign due to a foot injury. The latest injury comes after Newton dealt with shoulder issues the previous two years. With Cam entering the final year of his contract, there has been rampant speculation that the Panthers could move on.
At this early stage, Rhule wasn't willing to dig into any eventuality at the quarterback position.
Rhule later told NFL Network's Tiffany Blackmon he plans to dig into the QB position in short order.
"At the end of the day I know this: I know you need to win with a quarterback," Rhule said. "And I know Cam's done a lot of winning and so I look forward to working with him but at the same time I'll talk to our ownership and GM and kind of really establish all the guys in the locker room -- him, Kyle Allen and Will Grier as well."
Newton wasn't the only player Rhule declined to discuss. The first-time NFL head coach said he's waiting to put together his staff and evaluate the entire roster before plowing forward in 2020.
"I can't talk in great, great depth (about the roster)," Rhule said. "I know there are some key pieces. Yesterday, I tried to watch some games. I watched three, four, five games. ... My next steps are to really start to get to know the guys, start to watch the tape, and then hire a staff. And, so, I'd hate to talk without having a great sense of what I'm going to say. But I've started that process, and started getting to know some of the guys as well."
If his introductory press conference is any indication, Rhule is a master motivator who will have every Panthers player who is on the roster ready to run through a wall for him in his first season.
"Keep Pounding is not just a slogan. It's a way of life," Rhule said emphatically.
»Much like his response to players, Rhule was evasive about plans to round out the coaching staff.
"I'll have a diverse staff and a mixed staff," he said. "I have I think one of the best staffs in football at Baylor. A lot of my guys I've gotten to Baylor from the NFL, so a lot of guys have NFL experience. ... There's a lot of guys that I know that are interested in coming here, and there's a lot of people that are really excited about this organization, and they're really excited about what Mr. Tepper and Marty have already started and so I'm getting calls from guys that say, 'Hey I want to be a part of that.' I think what you see here is alignment, you see an owner, a general manager and a head coach that aren't forcing themselves to do things, they see things the same way. And people understand that that's how you win in this league. When everyone's on the same page, you're gonna be successful. I'll probably get here and starting working with Marty today or tomorrow, whenever, and start working on getting some people here. The one thing I've learned and the advice I've gotten from so many people in this league is 'Don't rush, get the right people' and so that's what we're doing."
»Tepper placed an emphasis during his search on coaches who would embrace analytics, and Rhule addressed his philosophy as it pertains to sports science.
"The worlds of sports science, the worlds of analytics are things that I'm interested in and, as we talked, we had just a common interest in those things. They're always evolving and I think really it's just a commitment to the application of things. We have catapulted Baylor, they have catapulted here where you monitor the loads on players. It really just comes down to the application of it and can you get alignment from your football staff to your sports medicine staff to your sports science staff. We didn't get into great detail about, 'Hey, we're going to do this, this'; it was just more like, 'This is what I believe in, this is what they believe in,' and, to me, I just believe in common vision. If we believe in our players having the very best then we can be really successful. I think when you're in college football things people don't realize is that we don't get to draft anybody and I don't get to offer somebody a signing bonus. We're all trying to get the best stuff so we were way ahead of a lot of other college teams in terms of sports science that's at Baylor so I kind of got very used to it."
»Rhule was asked if he feels a need to have a veteran NFL presence on his coaching staff.
"Not really in terms of, like, coordinators and things like that 'cause I think the league has seen there's been great coordinators who are 60, there's been great coordinators who are 28 so it's not really that. I think one of the key pieces for me is to bring a veteran guy than can really work with me and mentor me. I've always done that everywhere I've been, I've always tried to have somebody that can be there to speak truth to me, speak truth to power, that can be kind of a right hand guy. I want to have a great mix and at the end of the day all I really care about when I hire assistant coaches is, 'Are they great teachers?' That's really what this game's about, it's about getting players to play their best and the best way to do that is to have guys who'll bring out the best in their players. Old, young, none of those things matter to me, I don't have to know them; I just think when you meet guys who are great teachers, who bring out the best in others, you kind of feel it. We're going to try to do that but I will try to bring in someone who's been around and lots of guys like that have reached out to me already which is great."
»Finally, for everyone on #SmockWatch, it doesn't appear Rhule's signature look will be coming to Carolina.
"That [will stay at ] Baylor," Rhule told Blackmon. "I put on a nice pullover today and it felt really good. It covered all my everything, it was black and I felt really at home."