Brian Burns: Matt Rhule ‘100%’ coach to turn Carolina Panthers

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CHARLOTTE, NC – Carolina Panthers running back Ameer Abdullah saw firsthand in 2018 with the Detroit Lions what it’s like when the coach loses the locker room.

The players were so disappointed with Matt Patricia that some reportedly made mimosas in the locker room to celebrate the end of the season and the opportunity to get away from the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator and his “Patriots Way” until off-season training.

“It’s not fun,” said Abdullah, who was released in November of that season but kept in touch with former teammates after his departure.

Abdullah does not expect such a celebration of Panthers players after Sunday’s final in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (16:25, CBS). He has not seen a split between the Panthers and coach Matt Rhule, who has been asked several times over the past few weeks whether there has been disagreement in the locker room during a losing streak that reached six in a row against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

“Not at all,” Abdullah said.

Neither does linebacker Shaq Thompson.

“I do not think the locker room is lost – at all,” he said. “People can be frustrated. Anyone would be frustrated going on a losing streak. But these guys right here, we’re going to stick together and fight, no matter what.”

Rhule saw that match in Sunday’s 18-10 loss, Carolina’s 11th setback in 13 games. He expects to see it again against the Buccaneers.

“You get to this point in the season, you have a team that plays so hard, that means you have a good locker room, you have good guys,” Rhule said. “We have good guys.”

External linebacker Brian Burns agreed, adding that he “100%” believes Rhule is the coach to lead Carolina into the future.

It’s not easy to see outside the walls of the Bank of America Stadium. Many fans only see the Panthers are 5-11 this season, having had 5-11 a year ago, Rhules first.

Count former Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. among those who question interim offensive coordinator Jeff Nixon and say the Panthers are “closer than people think as far as they are able to win games and make some noise in the NFC.”

Smith tweeted: “Do the Carolina Panthers know their own shortcomings? Because the fans who watch every week and the opponents they play every week seem to know the Carolina Panthers’ shortcomings”

Fans do not understand how Rhule can say that the process he used to turn the college programs in Temple and Baylor “works 1000%” when the results on the court do not support it.

But part of that process is persuading players to keep playing hard when the results are not there. Edge rusher Haason Reddick knows it better than most. He was with Rhule at Temple as the Owls had 2-10 and 6-6 the first two seasons before going 10-4 in the third.

“Fans, just as much as I love them, just as much as I love the fans here, they are not in the building every day,” Reddick said. “They can not see how players develop, how these younger players mature.

“People from the outside, sorry to say, they can not always see it when your record does not reflect it.”

That does not mean there is no frustration inside.

“Man, for hell, I’m frustrated,” Thompson said. “Building my ass … we are all about to blow our ass. To go out there and fight for the victory and not get the result, man, that’s frustrating. But every single day we get the corrections and the attack next week.”

Losing doesn’t have to split a team

Frustration sometimes leads to division. In 1992, after a 0-5 start, players from the University of South Carolina met privately and voted 62-24 to have coach Sparky Woods removed.

The following week, Woods rookie Steve Taneyhill named the starting quarterback. The Gamecocks disrupted the 15th-ranked Mississippi State to begin a four-game winning streak. They won five of their last six games and Woods got one more season before being fired after another record of 5-6.

Some Detroit players in 2018 were split on Patricia at the end of his first training camp. They came after a 9-7 season under Jim Caldwell and felt they were close to turning the corner.

Not everyone appreciated Patricia’s “the hard way is the right way” mantra, which put players through one of the most demanding training camps many had seen. Not everyone appreciated Patricia’s in-your-face approach.

That the Lions started 1-3 on their way to a record of 6-10 magnified the frustration. Patricia survived it, but was fired 10 games in its third season with a record of 13-29-1.

Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor faced scrutiny in 2020. After a 2-7-1 start that set his overall record at 4-21-1, Sports Illustrated wrote a story titled “An Inside Look At the Bengals’ Toxic Culture” . “

According to the story, “several sources have described the culture in Cincinnati as more of a ‘college-level’ environment rather than a professional locker room.”

This season, the Bengals, with quarterback Joe Burrow healthy and now playing as the top pick in the 2020 draft, are 10-6 and locked into the playoffs as the AFC North division winners.

Rhule happy with Panther’s locker room

Rhule, whose only year of NFL experience before getting a $ 62 million seven-year deal to coach the Panthers, has faced similar criticism regarding a college environment. That much of his coaching staff was with him at Baylor and Temple, and that seven of his current players played for him in college, flares up.

Rhule understands. He also understands that there are things that need to be corrected, starting with the offensive line and quarterback.

He points again to the effort in New Orleans.

“Sometimes when you lose, all the different things come out, agendas come out,” he said. “In my opinion, those guys went out and put it on the line. Like a football fan, it meant a lot to me.

“I have been happy with our locker room. It is clear that no one is happy with the results. But guys really enjoy each other. They have good relationships with the coaches and staff.”

In time, Rhule thinks it will pay off. If it does not, he may be out of work as Patricia was in 2020 after a 4-7 start.

“From where we started to where we are now, many good things are happening,” Rhule insisted. “Just the results are not where they should be. That’s what people should be frustrated with, but I believe it’s coming.”


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