Year 2 of the Matt Rhule era for the Carolina Panthers is almost in the books.
It's not going well.
Year 1 ended with a third-place finish in the NFC South courtesy of a 5-11 record and an offense short-circuited by the loss of All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey to injury.
Fast-forward to Sunday, and the Panthers dropped to 5-10 with a home loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a season that's likewise been short-circuited by injuries to McCaffrey. Throw in some bad quarterback play from both Sam Darnold and Cam Newton — both of whom played in a platoon on Sunday — and it adds up to a likely last-place NFC South finish anchored by a 29th-ranked offense following a 3-0 start.
Some fans have seen enough of their head coach, who was hired after developing Baylor into an offensive power.
"Fire Rhule" chants broke out at Bank of America Stadium Sunday amid the 32-6 loss to the Bucs that saw the Panthers fail to score a touchdown.
After the game, Rhule told reporters that his system and Carolina's rebuild simply need more time to coalesce. Seven years sounds right. Just look at Jay-Z.
"I believe it's 1,000 percent working," Rhule told reporters of Carolina's rebuild. "I just know no one can see it, and I apologize. As I tell our team all the time, it took Jay-Z like seven years. He had to start his own agency to become famous, to become an overnight sensation. It takes time."
Rhule just so happens to have a seven-year contract with the Panthers worth $62 million. But to be clear, he's not lasting seven years under owner David Tepper at this rate. Carolina's failures already prompted Rhule to fire offensive coordinator Joe Brady midseason. Logic dictates that Rhule is next in line if things don't improve.
There's no time to show improvement in 2021. Carolina's season is lost. Whether Rhule survives the offseason to Year 3 is the next big question in Charlotte. If he does, he should drop the Jay-Z plan and model Carolina's rebuild around an artist with a three-year ascent.