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The Carolina Panthers have fired coach Matt Rhule and will replace him on an interim basis with secondary coach Steve Wilks, the team announced Monday.
Rhule is the first NFL coach fired this season.
He leaves the team with four years remaining on his seven-year contract and will be paid the remaining portion of his estimated $62 million original deal.
This was inevitable as Rhule has overseen the worst combined three seasons in franchise history and that includes when the franchise was first born in 1995.
Wilks, who was coach of the Arizona Cardinals for one season before being fired, is a Charlotte native. He had a 3-13 record with the Cardinals in his one season with the team.
The Carolina Panthers are 1-4 and in last place in the NFC South which shouldn’t be surprising. They’ve actually lost 11 of their last 12 games dating back to last year and were 11-27 under Rhule the last three seasons.
So, losing has become something of a bad habit in Carolina to the point Rhule was on the hot seat after Sunday’s loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Rhule Woudn’t Discuss Status
After the Panthers got thoroughly beaten by the 49ers, 37-15, Rhule told reporters he would only discuss Sunday’s outcome and nothing more.
He would not talk about the team’s slide of sadness over three years.
And certainly not being on the hot seat, which Rhule definitely is sitting on right now after infamously losing 25 consecutive games in which they’ve allowed 25 points or more.
“I hope you guys can understand, I’m here to talk about the game,” Rhule deflected, when he was asked if he’s been given any assurances by club owner David Tepper that he’ll remain as coach.
“I’ve always been very forthright with you guys. You know, I have nothing to say about that now. Really just here to talk about the game today. I would never want to make this about me.”
Well, it is about him. And his offense.
Rhule’s Panthers Offense Is Struggling
Because Rhule was something of an offensive mastermind at Baylor before being hired by the Panthers. But the offense has failed in every way possible the past few years.
The unit actually gave up a touchdown on a pick six Sunday before it scored one of its own. And starter Baker Mayfield, limping on an injured ankle, was taken out of the game in the fourth quarter.
Rhule was unclear if Mayfield was removed and P.J. Walker was inserted to save the starter from further injury or if Walker was being helped along with game experience to use in the near future. That along with the terrible atmosphere at the game, with seemingly as many 49ers fans as Panthers fans present and the home crowd leaving early, are bad signs.
But a league source told OutKick Monday Rhule’s ultimate fate would be determined by whether he loses the locker room or not.
The club obviously came to the conclusion that had happened and decided it best to move on now.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero