Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule prioritizes NFL experience in search for new offensive coordinator – Carolina Panthers Blog
CHARLOTTE, NC — In 2019, the New York Jets were interested in hiring Baylor coach Matt Rhule on the condition that he choose his coaching staff from a list of candidates they provided. They were no good with his proposed roster of coordinators and assistants who had very little NFL experience.
Rhule withdrew from the review.
“I will never be in an arranged marriage,” Rhule told ESPN 1660 in Dallas at the time. “I will never outsource jobs for offense and defense. I’m always going to hire people who I believe in… who are going to do things our way, who are going to believe in the process, who are going to be part of a program.”
Fast forward to 2020. Rhule, with just a year of NFL experience (assistant offensive line coach for the New York Giants in 2012), was hired by the Carolina Panthers. He brought with him eight Baylor coaches and an entire team with a combined 84 years of NFL experience.
To put that into perspective, when the Los Angeles Rams hired Sean McVay in 2017 as the youngest (30) head coach in the NFL’s modern era, he brought in – just in attack – a staff with 84 years of combined experience, plus his eight years in the league as an assistant and offensive coordinator with Washington.
In 2007, when Mike Tomlin was hired as Pittsburgh Steelers coach at the age of 34, he had an experienced offensive coordinator in Bruce Arians (14) and a defensive coordinator in Dick LeBeau (34).
Even a veteran coach like Arians (now 27 in the NFL) has an offensive staff with 109 years of experience as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers attempt to defend their Super Bowl title.
So, yes, experience seems to matter – and Rhule now seems to understand that as he searches for an experienced offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, defensive line coach and a special teams coordinator.
Rhule first hired an offensive coordinator in Joe Brady who had only two years of league experience (offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints) and none as a play caller, and he hired seven assistants who had no NFL coaching experience.
Two seasons and a combined 10-23 record later, Rhule finds himself looking for experience in key positions, especially offensive coordinator.
Its future beyond 2022 could depend on it. Fox’s Jay Glazer reported after the season that Carolina owner David Tepper could still make a coaching change if Rhule did not hire a “rock star” offensive coordinator.
Rhule said Tepper never told him to fire or hire anyone, but he admits finding an experienced offensive coordinator is key. He also looks outside of his college training tree.
“The only thing I want is that I would like to find someone who has experience, having done it,” Rhule said after the season. “It’s one thing to make suggestions. It’s another to make the call.
“One thing about these jobs, whether it’s being a starting quarterback, being an OC, being a DC, being a head coach, is that every year you learn good things you’ve done and bad things you’ve done.”
With that, let’s take a look at the experience of the coaches who have been flagged as Rhule candidates for the position of offensive coordinator:
Bill O’Brien (52): Currently offensive coordinator at Alabama, but before that he was the head coach of the Houston Texans (2014-2020), and before that the OC/QB coach of the New England Patriots (2011). He has 12 years of experience in the NFL.
Mike Groh (50): Currently wide receivers coach for the Indianapolis Colts. He spent two years as the offensive coordinator with the Philadelphia Eagles (2018-19) but was not the point guard. Has 10 years of NFL experience.
Jay Gruden (54): Has been unemployed since being laid off as offensive coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars (along with the rest of the staff) after the 2020 season. He also served as offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals (2011-13) for three years ( the Bengals made the playoffs every season) and head coach in Washington (2014-19) for six years. He has 17 years of experience in the NFL.
Klint Kubiak (34): Served as the Minnesota Vikings’ offensive coordinator for the past two seasons, but received mixed reviews on his call to play last season. He has nine years of experience in the NFL.
Pep Hamilton (47): The Charlotte native was the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Houston last season. He has 13 years of experience in the NFL. His only experience as an OC came at Stanford (2011-12), where he developed former No. 1 pick Andrew Luck. He also helped develop Justin Herbert with the Los Angeles Chargers in 2020 and third-round pick Davis Mills in Houston last season.
Scottie Montgomery (43): He spent last season as a running backs coach at Indianapolis but only has four years of NFL experience. He was offensive coordinator at Maryland and Duke and head coach at East Carolina (2016-18). He entered the NFL with the Panthers in 2000 as an undrafted rookie and hails from Burns, North Carolina.
Ben McAdoo (44): He is currently a consultant for the Dallas Cowboys. He was the New York Giants head coach (2016-17) for two years after spending the previous two seasons as offensive coordinator under Tom Coughlin, who is one of Rhule’s mentors. The offense went from 28th in 2014 to 13th in 2014, his first season as an OC. He moved up to sixth overall in 2015. He has 16 years of NFL experience. Rhule and McAdoo’s ties to the Giants and Coughlin make McAdoo an intriguing candidate.
Kevin O’Connell (36): He is still involved in the playoffs as an OC for the Los Angeles Rams, where he has been since 2020 after one season as an OC in Washington. He hasn’t called plays in Washington, and he hasn’t called plays for the Rams (McVay does), but he works closely with quarterbacks and has seven years of NFL experience.
Luke Getsy (37): Has been the passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the Green Bay Packers for the past two seasons. He has seven years of NFL experience, all with the Packers. He left the NFL in 2018 to become Mississippi State’s offensive coordinator for one season before returning to Green Bay.
Tim Kelly (35): Has been the Texans’ offensive coordinator for the past three seasons. Has been with Houston since 2014, so he has eight years of NFL experience. He also worked with quarterback Deshaun Watson, who was of interest to the Panthers last year.