The boo-birds rained down from the Carolina Panthers faithful as Matt Rhule’s squad got pummeled by a short-handed Tampa Bay Buccaneers squad, 32-6.
The boos included chants requesting owner David Tepper fire Rhule as the head coach yo-yoed his quarterbacks during the disappointing final home game of the season.
Rhule attempted to spin the boos as a positive Sunday following the Panthers’ fifth consecutive loss.
“You know, I come from Philadelphia. To me, it shows that people care,” Rhule said. via the team’s official website. “Walking off the field, people booing — we are not winning. I have no problem with that. People spend their hard-earned money to come watch us play. It is part of it when you are the head coach, when you are the quarterback. That is all part of it. It makes it that much better when you win.
“I much prefer passion over apathy. I much prefer pressure over nothing. I could do something else. I think our fans have been great. They support us and you know sometimes you need to be booed. … I have no issue with our fans. What fans deserve is they deserve a winner. They saw a really good team early in the year and they’re not seeing it right now. I understand their frustration.”
The Panthers got off to a 3-0 start to the season, but the mirage didn’t last long. Carolina has gone 2-10 since, including a four-game losing streak and the current five-game skid. With tilts in New Orleans and Tampa Bay to close the season, it could get uglier for Rhule.
In two years, the coach hasn’t figured out the quarterback position. On Sunday, he see-sawed between Cam Newton and Sam Darnold. Newton got the start but played just 25 snaps. Darnold came in as a sub in the second quarter and took all of the fourth quarter reps, finishing with 42 for the tilt. Neither played particularly well.
Darnold completed 15 of 32 passes for 190 yards and took four sacks. Newton went 7-of-13 for 61 yards and an INT, and rushed five times for 42 yards (a team-high).
The Panthers are a mess that Rhule can’t seem to clean up. Every button he’s pushed this year has sunk Carolina deeper into the waste.
Rhule can dismiss, empathize with or even appreciate fans booing his team’s results. If Tepper feels the same way, the coach won’t survive the next few weeks with his job intact. But Rhule insists he believes his program is working.
“We have some key areas that we have to fix,” Rhule said. “Whether that is to coach them better, to do better organizationally. But I believe it is 1,000 percent working; I just know no one can see it, and I apologize.”
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