Matt Rhule Fired by the Panthers; Carolina Must Consider Reuniting Rams OC Liam Coen and Kentucky QB Will Levis

Oct 9, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2022; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule on the sidelines in the third quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports /

The Carolina Panthers have fired head coach Matt Rhule after 38 games with the franchise. What should owner David Tepper look to do in the wake of Rhule’s firing? I propose reuniting Rams OC Liam Coen and Kentucky Wildcat QB Will Levis.

The Panthers Fire Matt Rhule

To no surprise, the Carolina Panthers have chosen to part ways with head coach Matt Rhule. Only five games into his third season, the writing was on the wall in ALL CAPS that the partnership was headed toward a swift end.

The final nail in the coffin for Matt Rhule was levied on Sunday when Carolina lost 37-15 at home to the San Francisco 49ers. The loss sent the team spiraling to a 1-4 record and dropped Rhule’s overall coaching record to 11-27. He signed a seven-year, $62 million contract in January 2020.

Now that the band-aid has been mercifully ripped off, what comes next for the Panthers organization and their diehard fandom?

Life After Matt Rhule; Liam Coen Should Be the Favorite to Take Over in Carolina

The good news for Panthers faithful is that their 2023 NFL Draft pick should fall within the first five selections. This result would allow whoever takes over as head coach to handpick their quarterback of the future to build around. This promise is perhaps the strongest selling point to any potential head coaching candidate.

Another factor that will help in the coaching search is the young talent on the roster. Their offensive weapons are underrated, and a few youngsters on defense like Brian Burns, Jeremy Chinn, and Jaycee Horn, are all still ascending in the league.

A bevy of candidates will come up during the hiring process, but one guy stands out among the rest. That man is Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator, Liam Coen.

Coen is one of the hottest names in NFL head coaching circles. The 36-year-old served as offensive coordinator for Mark Stoops and the Wildcats in 2021, helping propel the program to new heights on the offensive side of the football.

Coen has an extensive history as a protege to Rams’ head coach Sean McVay. He served as a WR coach in LA in 2018 and 2019 before becoming an assistant QB coach in 2020.

He used this standing with McVay to earn the play-calling gig for the Kentucky Wildcats. Coen spent 2021 in Lexington and brought an NFL scheme with him to the SEC East.

Coen implemented a variation of the McVay system, featuring a heavy zone run scheme with loads of play action and pre-snap motion. Coen’s mindset aligns with the style that young head coaches like Mike McDaniel and Brian Daboll have brought to their respective locker rooms.

Kentucky QB Will Levis Could Be Reunited with Liam Coen in Carolina

We won’t stop there. A certain Kentucky Wildcat quarterback is even more present in the mainstream. Will Levis is witnessing a surge up NFL Draft boards and has begun hearing his name brought up in QB1 discussions for the 2023 NFL Draft.

Coen couldn’t bring the system to Kentucky and execute it so well without an elite talent behind center. He looked to Penn State transfer Will Levis to lead the pro-style offense after the newcomer won the starting quarterback battle entering 2021.

With only one offseason to do so, Levis soaked up the offense like a sponge and helped the Kentucky unit to one of its best outputs in program history. The Wildcats featured one of the best rushing attacks, which allowed Levis to capitalize on any stacked box. He also was a surgeon in the play-action game.

Liam Coen left the program this offseason to take over as offensive coordinator under Sean McVay. This decision left Will Levis with a new play caller entering the 2022 season. Do not worry; very little changed when it came to the nuts and bolts of the system.

Rich Scangarello followed a similar path to Kentucky, albeit on a different limb of the same coaching tree. Scangarello spent the 2017 and 2018 seasons as QB coach in San Fran. He then left to become the offensive coordinator in Denver for the 2019 season but only served one season with the Broncos.

After a stint as a senior offensive assistant in Philadelphia, Scangarello returned home in 2021 to his old position of QB coach under Kyle Shanahan. The Niners’ offense performed admirably and worked around the shortcomings of Jimmy Garappolo’s game en route to an NFC Championship Game berth.

Parlaying this success, Scangarello became the man behind the curtain in the Bluegrass State. Scangarello kept much of the same concepts that Coen instituted the year prior, making it a seamless transition for Will Levis.

Levis has proven in 2022 that he’s more than just a product of savvy play calling. The gifted passer has elevated the program to key victories, and when Levis has been out of action, it becomes obvious how much he carries the team from time to time.

Levis’ ability to run an advanced scheme while also putting the team on his shoulders is invaluable when evaluating a quarterback. Levis also brings a leadership quality to the locker room and the huddle that cannot be taught.

A Plea to the Carolina Panthers Front Office

The Panthers fan base has suffered from head-scratching play calls, abysmal play at quarterback, and a level of inconsistency that is impossible to overcome. Firing Matt Rhule opens the door to endless possibilities, but a reunion between Liam Coen and Will Levis is the most tantalizing.

Pairing the two together with an NFL franchise will cross the mind of those looking for a new leader in both spots this offseason. The Carolina Panthers present an intriguing destination for the duo. The roster features some great, young talent and is closer to being a contender than given credit for.