CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Baylor coach Matt Rhule agreed Tuesday to a seven-year contract to become the Carolina Panthers’ next coach, league sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The deal is worth $60 million and with incentives could be worth up to $70 million.
Baylor made $4.1 million this season as Baylor’s coach.
The move is a bold one by owner David Tepper, who, when previously explaining the job description, didn’t rule out hiring a college coach but made it clear he understood the “difficulty” in moving from college to the NFL. Rhule previously spent only one year in the NFL, that in 2012 as an offensive line assistant for the New York Giants.
Rhule was scheduled to meet with the Giants on Tuesday but canceled that appointment after his interview with Tepper at his home in Waco, Texas, on Monday.
Rhule has a reputation for turning programs around. In his third season at Temple, the Owls went 10-2 during the regular season. A year later, he led the program to its first conference championship since 1967.
Baylor went 11-3 this past season, two years after going 1-11 in Rhule’s first season for the Big 12 program.
Rhule, 44, will inherit a Carolina team that finished 5-11 this past season and has had three losing seasons in the past four years since going to the Super Bowl after the 2015 season.
He will replace Ron Rivera, who was fired with four games left in the 2019 season with the Panthers in a losing skid that would reach eight straight. Rivera, who took over the team in 2011, was the winningest coach in Carolina history, with a record of 76-63-1.
He was hired by the Washington Redskins last week.
This is the first time in team history the Panthers have hired a coach from the collegiate level. They appeared to be leaning toward a pro coach again before Tepper met with Rhule.
Carolina interviewed former Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy, who is headed to Dallas. The Panthers also interviewed Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and had been scheduled to meet with New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on Tuesday, interim coach Perry Fewell on Wednesday and Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin Stefanski on Thursday.
All except Fewell were offensive-minded — as Tepper said he wanted.
One of Rhule’s biggest decisions will be deciding the future of quarterback Cam Newton, who is rehabbing from Lisfranc surgery. There is no timetable on Newton’s return, and the 2015 NFL MVP is slated to become a free agent after the 2020 season.
Although Rhule was a linebacker at Penn State, he has become known for his offensive prowess. He’s a big believer in the RPO — run-pass option — that is big in the NFL and something the Panthers have run the past two seasons with Norv and Scott Turner guiding the offense.
Rhule, initially known for smashmouth football, has jokingly called the RPO his “deal with the devil.”
Rhule ultimately fit Tepper’s job description, “the right mix of old-school discipline and toughness with modern and innovative processes.”
Yahoo Sports first reported that Rhule had agreed to take the Panthers job.