CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers are completing a contract to hire Baylor’s Matt Rhule as their head coach, according to an Associated Press source familiar with the situation.
The source said Panthers owner David Tepper visited Rhule at his home in Waco, Texas, and decided he wanted the Baylor coach to succeed Ron Rivera, who was fired with four games remaining in the season. Rivera was the winningest coach in franchise history and was twice named AP NFL Coach of the Year.
The 44-year-old Rhule had been scheduled to visit with the New York Giants this week and was believed to be a strong candidate there. The Giants settled on Patriots special teams/wide receivers coach Joe Judge as their new head coach Tuesday.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had been slated to meet with the Panthers Tuesday before having interviews with the Browns Wednesday and Giants Friday.
McDaniels was in the top two for the Panthers, according to the NFL Network, but Tepper “heard enough” after spending time with Rhule and his family in Texas Monday.
According to ESPN, Rhule’s deal with the Panthers is for seven years and $60 million, with incentives that could take it up to $70 million. His $8.6 million average annual pay will rank sixth among NFL head coaches.
Rhule was named Baylor’s coach on Dec. 6, 2016, after a sexual assault scandal hit the program. He went 1-11 his first season, then improved to 7-6 in 2018. The Bears went 11-1 this past season, although they lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game and to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
Rhule was a combined 19-20 in his three seasons at Baylor.
Before coaching at Baylor, Rhule worked at Temple and revived the Owls. After a 2-11 season his first year, he wound up leading the school to back-to-back 10-win seasons.
Rhule began his college coaching career in 1998, and his only experience in the NFL is having spent one season as an assistant offensive line coach with the Giants in 2012.