Nebraska considering Matt Rhule as coach: Cornhuskers close to deal with ex-Carolina Panthers boss, report says

Nebraska considering Matt Rhule as coach: Cornhuskers close to deal with ex-Carolina Panthers boss, report says

Nebraska appear to be in the final stages of hiring Matt Rhule as their next coach, according to ESPN. Rhule, who led turnovers at Temple and Baylor before trying his hand at the NFL, was fired as coach of the Carolina Panthers earlier this year in his third season with the franchise.

Best known for taking Baylor from 1-11 to an 11-3 campaign and a 2020 Sugar Bowl berth, Rhule led one of the fastest turnarounds in Power Five history. He also led Temple 2-10 to consecutive 10-win seasons and an AAC championship in 2016 before leaving the Owls for the Bears. Temple hasn’t won more than eight games since leaving after the 2016 season, posting a 7-23 record.

If Rhule gets the Nebraska job, he would be tasked with resurrecting a Cornhuskers program in hopes of regaining his form after a rough start to his Big Ten tenure. The historically dominant program has fallen on hard times during the conference realignment, having failed to win 10 games in a season since 2012, its first year in the league. Nebraska hasn’t bowled since 2016.

Rhule would follow Scott Frost as a coach. Frost, a former championship-winning quarterback with the Huskers, was considered a savior for the program returning to Lincoln, Nebraska. Instead, Frost went 16-31 in one of the worst tenures by a coach in program history. He was fired three games into the 2022 season after a 1-2 start and loss to Georgia Southern.

turnaround artist

When Rhule got his two previous jobs — Baylor and Temple — both programs had deep depths to overcome. Baylor was in the aftermath of a massive Title IX scandal and had only one player signed on when Rhule took over the program. Temple had a few successful seasons but fell to 4-7 before Steve Addazio left to take the Boston College job.

In both cases, Rhule tore the program down to the posts and rebuilt them in his own image – one of development, tenacity and high IQ football. Rhule won the AAC with Temple, winning only the second conference championship in program history. Although Rhule didn’t win the Big 12 championship game himself at Baylor, his players were the bulk of Dave Aranda’s 2021 Big 12 champions.

After nearly a decade of atrophy, Nebraska needs a refresh. Rhule will have the opportunity to rebuild the Cornhuskers and potentially bring back some of the physicality fans who have been missing since the heyday of Nebraska football’s Blackshirt era.

Contract clauses

Rhule was in a comfortable spot at Baylor, but NFL interest reached historic levels during the 2019 training cycle. Most expected Rhule to focus on the New York Giants – a team from his hometown where he previously worked — but Carolina owner David Tepper offered Rhule a whopping seven-year, $62 million contract before interviewing him elsewhere.

The Panthers still owe Rhule more than $34 million from his original contract, though quirky tongue in his contract could soften the blow. However, the guaranteed money could also play a role in a possible contract negotiation with Nebraska.

Nebraska has plenty of money to clear the Panthers’ $8.85 million guaranteed salary, but the head coach’s salary may be a secondary consideration as Rhule will be paid by the Panthers for four years. Complications related to salary versus other coaching considerations could lengthen negotiations.

Organizational capacity

Rhule only spent one year of his long career west of the Mississippi River – a one-year stint as UCLA’s defensive line coach under Bob Toledo in 2001. However, the most Rhule’s great asset is his ability to intelligently assess and hire coaching talent to develop his weaknesses.

When Rhule took the job from Baylor, he had never coached at Texas State. However, Rhule contacted the Texas High School Coach’s Association and eventually hired three high school coaches on his team – off-court assistant David Wetzel, quarterbacks coach Shawn Bell and current Texas Tech coach Joey McGuire. The trio helped him become an immediate favorite of notoriously fickle high school coaches.

Rhule already has a huge advantage over the staff – Mickey Joseph. The interim coach and former Nebraska quarterback has a clause in his contract that allows him to stay on as wide receivers coach and associate head coach if he doesn’t get the full-time job. With his experience in Nebraska and in Southeast recruiting, Joseph is a no-brainer to keep on board. While Rhule is coming from the outside, he will soon be pleased.

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