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Tepper: Matt Rhule can be Panthers' Chuck Noll

Matt Rhule will be introduced this week as the fifth full-time head coach in the short history of the Carolina Panthers.

Owner David Tepper, less than two years removed from taking control of the franchise, hopes Rhule will build something to last for decades.

"I think Matt Rhule can come in here and build an organization for the next 30 or 40 years," Tepper told the team website, hours after agreeing to terms with Rhule. "He can build it."

Courted by Tepper's Panthers as well as the New York Giants, Rhule, Baylor's coach for the past three seasons, had his pick of coaching vacancies and the leverage to hand-pick his contract. The Panthers eventually offered a monster seven-year, $62 million deal with incentives, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, and Rhule accepted Tuesday.

The sizable offer reflected not only Rhule's value as one of the hottest college candidates in recent memory but Tepper's vision for and deep investment in the coach and the Panthers franchise. A former minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Tepper invoked the legacy of one particular Steelers skipper as a standard by which to judge Rhule: Chuck Noll.

"He built a program that has lasted through three coaches," Tepper said of the four-time Super Bowl-champion coach. "That's what I hope Matt Rhule can do for us here. He's a program builder."

Case in point: Rhule's resume includes two significant program turnarounds in the span of seven years. A longtime Temple assistant, Rhule was hired as the Owls head coach in 2013 and turned a 2-10 team into a 10-win outfit in two seasons. Hired by Baylor in 2017, Rhule led the sanctioned Bears to a 1-11 record before eventually piloting the program to an 11-3 record and a Sugar Bowl appearance this season.

Carolina finished 5-11 in 2019, the franchise's worst record since 2010 when the Panthers closed 2-14, hired coach Ron Rivera and selected Cam Newton with the first overall pick in the ensuing draft. The Panthers are back in the NFC South cellar with a new coach and potentially a new quarterback.

It's deja vu all over again, except this time Tepper is the owner and he's picked his man.

In addition to listing how impressive Rhule is as a "people manager," a player developer and a "head coach," Tepper pointed out that his connection with Rhule runs deeper than football.

"He dresses like (expletive) and sweats all over himself. He dresses like me, so I have to love the guy," Tepper said with a laugh. "I was a short-order cook, he was a short-order cook. Nobody gave him anything, nobody game me anything."

It will take time to see if Tepper and Rhule can cook up another Super Bowl contender, but the owner will be patient. A 30-year plan isn't executed overnight.

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