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Panthers fire Matt Rhule after 1-4 start; Wilks takes over

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Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule walks off the field after their loss to the San Francisco 49ers in an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 9, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina (AP Photo /Jacob Kupferman)

PA

The Carolina Panthers fired coach Matt Rhule on Monday, ending the former Baylor coach’s tenure five games after his third losing season.

Rhule, the first NFL coach to be fired this season, went 11-27 with Carolina. The Panthers fell to 1-4 with Sunday’s 37-15 home loss to San Francisco as 49ers fans made Bank of America Stadium their East Coast home.

Defensive pass coordinator and secondary coach Steve Wilks will act as interim coach for the remainder of the season. Wilks, 53, spent a year as Arizona head coach in 2018, going 3-13.

Rhule did not immediately respond to voice and text messages on Monday.

Rhule, 47, was lured away from Baylor on a seven-year, $62 million contract guaranteed by David Tepper, the NFL’s second-richest owner.

Tepper was patient with Rhule at first after Sunday’s loss, but grew increasingly restless and changed his mind on Monday.

Rhule said after the game that he didn’t want to discuss his job security because he didn’t want to talk about it for himself.

Rhule’s teams went 5-11 in 2020 and 5-12 last year.

The Panthers hoped Rhule could turn things around in his third year like he did at Baylor and Temple before that. The team has had a steady turnover at quarterback under Rhule, with Teddy Bridgewater starting in 2020 and Sam Darnold and Cam Newton starting last year.

The Panthers traded for Baker Mayfield this offseason. But the No. 1 draft pick in 2018 was horrible, ranking last in the NFL in ESPN’s total quarterback rating. Mayfield has completed 54.9% of his passes and is averaging less than 200 yards per game with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

Poor play at the game’s most important position put unbearable pressure on the Carolina defense. Under Rhule, the Panthers were 1-27 when allowing an opponent to score 17 or more points.

Mayfield injured his ankle in the loss to San Francisco and wore a walking boot after the game. It’s unclear if he will miss at any time.

Mayfield was one of many players who came out in favor of Rhule.

“We’re good in the locker room when it comes to that,” Mayfield said. “There are a lot of plays we have to go all out – and he can’t do that. He can’t play for us. He can’t do the execution for us.

It’s the second time in four years that Tepper has fired a coach this season. He let go of Ron Rivera, the winningest coach in franchise history, with four games left in 2019 with the Panthers at 5-7.

The Panthers haven’t made the playoffs since 2017 — the year before Tepper took over — and haven’t won a playoff game since winning the NFC Championship in 2015 to reach the second Super Bowl. of the franchise.

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This story was originally published October 10, 2022 9:24 a.m.