Matt Rhule is the first head coach to get fired during the NFL’s 2022 season. The Carolina Panthers decided to part ways with him after a 1-4 start, and after he posted a combined record of 11-27 with no playoff appearances since joining the organization in January 2020.
Rhule being let go did not come as too big a surprise, but his firing will still reverberate not just across the organization but the rest of the league as well. One of the teams potentially impacted by it is the New England Patriots, for two basic reasons: future draft picks and head coaching candidates on their own staff.
As far as draft capital is concerned, the Patriots will keep a close eye on the Panthers all season.
Carolina, after all, traded two of its 2023 draft selections to New England over the course of the last 12 months. The team sent a sixth-round pick to the Patriots in exchange for cornerback Stephon Gilmore last October, followed by a third-rounder in a draft-day trade in April.
At the moment, the positioning of those selections looks very favorable from a New England perspective. With the Panthers sitting at 1-4 after five games and having just fired their head coach, they are currently in line to earn the first overall selection next year. While there is a lot of football left to be played, Carolina ending up with Pick No. 1 would mean that the Patriots then hold the first selections in Rounds 3 and 6.
Of course, it will all depend on how the Panthers will perform in the next few weeks under interim head coach Steve Wilks. There is a belief around the league, however, that the organization will try to set itself up for a rebuild — possibly shedding some assets as a result.
If that happens, it would not be a surprise to indeed see Carolina finish the season with one of the worst, if not the worst record in football. The Patriots would obviously welcome that.
As far as the coaching aspect is concerned, the Rhule firing is pretty straight-forward: with him gone, the Panthers job will be open come January. While Wilks will try to put in as good a résumé as possible these next few months, the expectation is that owner David Tepper will go for an outside hire after the regular season.
If that happens, there are candidates on the Patriots’ staff to keep an eye out for. Matt Patricia and Joe Judge are former NFL head coaches, who might help rebuild their reputations depending on how New England’s offense will perform down the stretch. Tight end coach Nick Caley’s contract is set to expire next year; he too is an intriguing assistant.
The big one to watch, however, is linebackers coach Jerod Mayo. Mayo has had head coaching interviews before, and is open to leaving New England if the right opportunity comes along. The Panthers might be just that, despite the state they are currently in.