CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach Matt Rhule was figuring out his core at Financial institution of America Stadium on the Saturday earlier than the Carolina Panthers departed for a Week 5 sport at Atlanta. He was struggling to the purpose that he lastly yelled, “I can’t do anymore!”
In stepped security Juston Burris with the phrases, “What’s subsequent, coach! C’mon!”
The following day, after Burris muffed a first-half strip sack that would have resulted in a landing, Rhule ran onto the sphere, shouting, “What’s subsequent, Burris! What’s subsequent!”
What’s subsequent occurred with 8:49 remaining. The Falcons have been on the Carolina 5-yard line needing a landing to tie the sport when Burris intercepted a cross behind the tip zone to all however safe the win.
At no level did Burris or Rhule put a query mark on the finish of “what’s subsequent.” There was an exclamation level — simply as there was subsequent to the identical phrases on the sleeve of Rhule’s smock, which made its NFL sport debut final week at New Orleans.
“The entire level is that we’re not asking what’s subsequent,” Rhule stated as he ready for his prime-time debut as an NFL coach on Thursday (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox) at house towards the Falcons. “We’re attacking what’s subsequent. We do not care what’s subsequent. We’re simply searching for the following problem.”
“What’s subsequent!” is on the core of Rhule’s course of that rotated applications at Temple and Baylor. It has carried over to his first yr with the Panthers (3-4) as they face Atlanta (1-6), a crew that fired coach Dan Quinn after their first assembly.
“What’s subsequent” is what permits Rhule — and, he hopes, his gamers and employees — to shortly transfer on from disappointing losses reminiscent of Sunday’s 27-24 setback towards New Orleans.
“It’s not only a mantra that he preaches or places up on a poster board,” stated extensive receivers coach Frisman Jackson, who coached with Rhule at Temple and Baylor. “Daily, when new issues get thrown at us, particularly with the COVID, you may see that he lives a ‘what’s subsequent’ life.”
That mentality is required throughout a time when groups should modify on the fly, whether or not to a digital offseason or an ever-changing roster as a consequence of COVID-19.
“It’s in all probability the ethos of our program — like, you study from the previous however by no means dwell on the previous,” Rhule stated. “It is only a mindset of we do not wallow, we do not fear … we simply assault.”
There was some concern about whether or not Rhule’s popularity, significantly when it got here to bodily, padded practices, would work with professionals after the Panthers employed him and gave him a seven-year, $60 million contract.
A lot of Rhule’s philosophy got here in his solely NFL expertise in 2012 as an offensive assistant below then-New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who additionally got here to the NFL from the school ranks and had a popularity for strict, controlling pointers.
There have been no participant revolts over Rhule’s guidelines — and there are many guidelines, starting with accepting his “what’s subsequent” philosophy.
If gamers don’t observe the principles, Rhule shortly strikes on, as he just lately did with practice-squad participant Josh Hawkins days after the cornerback was captured on Instagram dancing in a crowded Charlotte, North Carolina, restaurant with out a masks.
“He is taking good care of guys and at [the] similar time being robust,” quarterback Teddy Bridgewater stated.
Panthers linebackers coach Mike Siravo seen Coughlin-like conviction when he and Rhule reconnected at Temple in 2013 after spending the 2006 season as assistants on the Temple employees.
“Him believing in nonnegotiables,” Siravo stated. “Perhaps not the identical ones as coach Coughiln or as many as coach Coughlin however that there are some nonnegotiables to having a terrific program and confidence in we’re not going to bend on sure issues.”
Some NFL coaches ease into the preparation for an opponent when gamers return from being off on Tuesdays. Rhule, apart from in brief weeks, believes in absolutely padded, bodily practices.
“Many free brokers which have are available in from different locations [for tryouts], you get dropped right into a Carolina Panther Wednesday, it is such as you’re on Mars,” Siravo stated. “Like, ‘What are you guys doing?’
“It is a model on the market on Wednesday, making an attempt to simply be robust and aggressive.”
One other of Rhule’s sayings is “iron sharpens iron,” and Wednesdays are how he sharpens his crew.
“He thinks you want someday per week of physicality. In any other case, you are going to lose it,” defensive coordinator Phil Snow stated.
Rhule additionally believes in having his assistants run throughout warm-ups or after apply for gamers to see.
“It’s a manner for him and a few of us [to] run off some energy and burn off steam,” Siravo stated. “Folks suppose we’re loopy. We really used to run far more. However sure, it says we’re in it with the gamers.”
Rhule’s workplace partitions aren’t full of photos or slogans from well-known folks. Except a coloured sheet of paper with the phrases “We Love You” from his two daughters, there’s nothing in any respect.
“I am simply not that sort of man,” Rhule stated.
Rhule makes use of his workplace for intense movie research, conferences and, most significantly, constructing relationships. That was the case after a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay, when he met with first-round choose Derrick Brown after the defensive deal with made a number of expensive errors.
Brown’s play has gotten steadily higher since then.
“Simply him being as open as he’s, it’s what’s actually gotten our crew shut collectively proper now,” Brown stated.
Through the digital offseason, Rhule had each place coach report video conferences so he may undergo them privately and later with every coach. If he thinks an adjustment is required, he makes it.
“Early on, I had a bunch of drills, and he was like, ‘Hey, are you able to clarify how this helps?’” Jackson stated. “I say, ‘Hey, Coach, I like this drill.’ And that reply wasn’t ok. And so I eradicated a bunch of drills that I assumed have been cool drills that possibly did not correlate over to the sport.”
“His mind works in another way than most individuals,” Cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper stated with amusing. “His mind by no means stops, making an attempt to do the small issues and making an attempt to achieve the sting.”
Uncle Chuck and ‘lovely soccer’
Rhule will let you know that he’s having a blast this season, regardless of the pandemic, however the coronavirus has taken its toll.
It took the lifetime of his uncle Chuck Sponsky, a Pennsylvania Corridor of Fame highschool coach who gave Rhule his love of soccer, simply earlier than the season started.
“I seemed ahead to him coming [to] see me coach within the NFL,” Rhule stated.
What Rhule hopes the nation sees Thursday is a troublesome, gritty soccer crew that overcame an 0-2 begin to win three straight earlier than dropping the previous two by a mixed 10 factors.
The Panthers remained aggressive regardless of dropping their greatest participant, working again Christian McCaffrey, for 5 video games. He may return Thursday. Their greatest defensive participant, deal with Kawann Brief (shoulder surgical procedure), performed solely three video games.
They’ve gone via per week by which 5 gamers have been positioned on the COVID-19/reserve listing.
The Panthers are an extended shot to make the playoffs within the NFC, by which eight groups have successful information, and the winner of the East will get in regardless. The Panthers are combating an uphill battle within the NFC South with Tampa Bay (5-2) and New Orleans (4-2).
However Rhule doesn’t have a look at this as a rebuild, regardless that many did when he moved on from quarterback Cam Newton and many of the key veterans from former coach Ron Rivera’s roster. Rhule believes the Panthers can win now, regardless of their inexperience and his inexperience as an NFL coach.
“If I have been beginning to take over a serious, worldwide company, I’d deliver this man in to do an post-mortem on my enterprise and see the way it’s run,” Siravo stated.
Rhule is glad with the path the group is headed.
“I do not simply get slowed down in, ‘I wish to win,'” he stated. “There’s one thing even better than that. And that is the way in which that you just play the sport. I wish to play lovely soccer. That’s our function: to exit and play the sport on the highest stage, play it the suitable manner.”
When the sport is over, Rhule will reiterate what he all the time does: What’s subsequent!
“It simply applies to every little thing in life,” he stated. “And it is one thing that over time turns into a terrific a part of this system.”