Rhule is Carolina’s guy. Now, who are Rhule’s guys?

By John Ellis

The Panthers traveled a unique path to find their new head coach.

Up next: the arduous, meticulous task of constructing an entirely new coaching staff.

When former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera signed on with the Redskins last week, he took a healthy portion of his Panthers staff with him. The Panthers didn’t seem particularly resistant to that. 

So, it’s virtually a clean staffing slate for Carolina. With the fanfare of the new hire announcement in the rear view, the real work begins.

Rhule has a couple of different pools he can draw from. Obviously there’s his current Baylor staff. Some of his colleagues from the year he spent with the New York Giants are still active as well. However, Rhule also indicated in his presser that he was getting “calls from all over”, specifically from coaches that want to be part of his 2020 Panthers coaching staff.

Intriguing, to say the least.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the potential candidates. For most of the available spots, I’m going to provide three possibilities: The Baylor option, the former Giants option, and wild cards. In a few cases, there will also be an existing Panthers option. Again, most of the old staff is long gone on a plane to Washington DC (with ownership’s blessing) but we’ll discuss the few who are still hanging around.

EDITORIAL NOTE: We have a new contributor to the One Panther Place team. He simply goes by “Mister Scot”. Don’t ask me why. Better yet, don’t even ask him why.

With the help of Scot’s encyclopedic understanding of this particular topic, we bring your this list of Panthers staffing possibilities:

 

OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR

The Baylor Option: Glenn Thomas or Jeff Nixon

There’s an NFL saying that when you have two quarterbacks, you have none. The same could apply to the OC role. Rhule had co-offensive coordinators in position coaches Glenn Thomas (quarterbacks) and Jeff Nixon (runningbacks). That kind of arrangement in the NFL isn’t necessarily unheard of – i.e. run game coordinators and passing game coordinators – but another name has already emerged as a likely candidate for this spot, and it isn’t either of them.

The Giants Option: Sean Ryan

Kevin Gilbride Sr. was technically the Giants OC, but Sean Ryan, the Giants quarterback coach in 2012, is the guy who’s being identified as a Panthers OC candidate. Ryan has an NFL resumé that dates back to 2007. He’s worked with the Giants, Texans and Lions as both a quarterbacks coach and a receivers coach (a common combo for future OCs). This would, however, be his first shot at being a coordinator, so that’s something to keep in mind.

The Wild Card Option: Joe Brady

LSU receiver coach / passing game coordinator Joe Brady is the guy who’s on everybody’s wish list as an OC. Ravens DC Don “Wink” Martindale even identified him as the guy he’d want if he got a head coaching job (which it looks like he won’t). Brady has no connection to Rhule that I know of. He did spend time as a graduate assistant at Penn State, but long after Rhule had graduated. There has been some reporting around the league this morning that Carolina may have some interest in Brady’s services.

QUARTERBACK COACH

The Baylor Option: Glenn Thomas

One of the common themes you’re going to see in the Baylor coaches is “followed Rhule from Temple”, and Thomas is one of those. He does have NFL experience, seven years with the Falcons, three of which were spent being Matt Ryan’s quarterback coach. He was let go from there as part of the staff when Mike Smith was sacked. In 2015, the Browns interviewed him for their open QB Coach spot but ultimately went in another direction and Thomas went to Temple. He could be a viable choice.

The Giants Option: Ummm…

Would have been Sean Ryan, but he’s being looked at as an OC. You might throw Kevin Gilbride in here as both a guy with QB coaching experience and as a former NFL head coach (something Rhule wants on staff) but he’s got a job as a head coach of one of the new XFL’s teams and was retired for about six years prior to taking that job anyway.

The Wild Card Option: Jon Kitna

Kitna was most recently the Cowboys QB coach, and it’s uncertain as of this writing whether he’ll be retained. The past two years in Dallas are his only NFL coaching experience but he was a player for several years. Probably not enough of a connection or an NFL resumé here though.

RUNNING BACK COACH

The Baylor Option: Jeff Nixon

Baylor’s other co-coordinator didn’t directly follow Rhule directly from Temple like Thomas did, but he did work alongside Rhule on the Temple staff in 2006 when Rhule was coaching defensive line and was a college teammate of Rhule’s at Penn State. Nixon has more NFL experience than Thomas, including five seasons as the Dolphins RB coach where he coached Lamar Miller. Unfortunately for him, the Panthers appear to already have a preference.

The Giants Option: Jerald Ingram

If you’re looking for NFL experience, here’s the guy with the most of it. Ingram has been coaching runningbacks in the NFL since 1995 and he’s got two Super Bowl rings from his stint with the Giants. He’s right now on the XFL Guardians staff with Gilbride though, and like Gilbride he was retired for the past several years before taking that job.

The Wild Card Option: Randy Jordan, Gray Brown, Craig Johnson

There are a few guys available from recently dismissed staffs. Randy Jordan from the Redskins has a North Carolina connection from his time at UNC. Gary Brown from Dallas (if he’s not retained) has more experience and the distinction of working with Ezekiel Elliott. Giants RB coach Craig Johnson has even more pro experience. But again, likely all for naught, because…

The Panthers Option: Jake Peetz

The Panthers made little to no effort to retain any of the coordinators or position coaches from Ron Rivera’s staff, except one. Because they love the work he’s done with star runningback Christian McCaffrey, the Panthers blocked the Redskins from interviewing RB coach Peetz. It’s an odd thing because Rhule reportedly broke off talks with the Jets when asked (told) to take a coach of their choosing, specifically notorious defensive coordinator and part time bounty hunter Gregg Williams. Still, that was for a coordinator job. Maybe he’s okay with a position coach. The Panthers are reportedly more than okay with Peetz. This is one to keep your eye on.

WIDE RECEIVER COACH

The Baylor Option: Frisman Jackson

Yet another one who followed Rhule from Temple, though in this case he spent an in-between year coaching receivers for the Tennessee Titans. That’s Jackson’s only year of pro coaching experience and head coach Mike Mularkey was fired at the end of it. He does have several years experience coaching college receivers though and also spent five years playing receiver in the NFL.

The Giants Option: Kevin Gilbride Jr

The son of longtime NFL coach Kevin Sr. has been coaching in the NFL since 2010. Notable prior to that though is that he was on the Temple coaching staff for three years while Rhule was there. Gilbride has coached both receivers and tight ends, but was recently fired by the Bears from their TE coach spot. Given his history with Rhule, I’d say he’s a possible target to coach either receivers or tight ends.

The Wild Card Option: Steve Smith…Just kidding, Sanjay Lal, Todd Monken or Ike Hilliard

Lal was recently advised he wouldn’t be retained by the Cowboys. Again, if an NFL resumé is your big draw, this guy’s got it. He’s been coaching in the NFL since 2007, with all but two of those years as a receivers coach. He’ll likely be coaching again soon, though it may or may not be with us. He could be a possibility if Rhule were to prefer that Gilbride coach the tight ends. Todd Monken is the most recent OC of the Browns, is known for being a smart guy and has experience as a receivers coach. Former Redskins receiver coach Ike Hilliard could be an option too. He doesn’t have a connection with Rhule that I’ve found but did spend a year with Rhule’s old boss Tom Coughlin.

TIGHT ENDS COACH

The Baylor Option: Marcus Satterfield

Satterfield is another Temple to Baylor guy with a stop in-between (two years at Tennessee Tech and East Tennessee State) but he goes further back with Rhule. The two of them were together on the Western Carolina staff in 2005. As far as work history, he’s done both receivers and tight ends, but solely at the college level.

The Giants Option: Kevin Gilbride or Lunda Wells

Technically, there could be three candidates here. There’s the previously mentioned Gilbride Jr, Lunda Wells and actual 2012 TE coach Mike Pope. Pope being 77 years old and retired though, I’ve decided to leave him out. Wells was an offensive assistant with the Giants in 2012 who stayed on as an assistant OL coach and later as the TE coach. He’s not expected to be retained in New York, but given his experience he might be more likely to latch on here as an assistant OL coach than a TE coach.

The Wild Card Option: Doug Nussmeier

Another Cowboys casualty. Nussmeier has a lot of NFL coaching experience, not as much as a TE coach though, more as an offensive coordinator. He spent the past two years with the Cowboys in that spot. I know someone might suggest Greg Olsen but he’s indicated he still wants to play for now, and once he hangs it up he has a broadcast career waiting. I’d probably expect the job to go to either Satterfield or Gilbride.

OFFENSIVE LINE COACH

The Baylor Option: Shawn Bell

Arguably the least likely of the Baylor guys. Bell was a quarterback at Baylor who joined the coaching side of the program after spending several years as a high school coach (quarterback to offensive line coach is certainly an unusual transition). My expectation would be that he’ll stay on with the next Baylor coach, for more reasons than one.

The Giants Option: Pat Flaherty

Flaherty has already been rumored as likely to join Rhule’s staff. He has some experience coaching tight ends (TE and OL coaches cross over at times) but has been an OL coach for the past several years. There is a small-ish Carolina connection, as Flaherty coached several years at Wake Forest and one season at East Carolina. Mind you, he’s free because Dolphins coach Brian Flores parted ways with him during the 2019 offseason, reportedly because Flaherty was having trouble implementing the system Flores wanted. There’s word that his replacement, Dave DiGuglielmo – best known for trying to fill the shoes of Dante Scarnecchia in New England – might be moving on too. So who knows what’s going on there?

The Wild Card Option: Marc Colombo, Hal Hunter or Harry Hiestand

The Cowboys offensive line, when healthy, has been praised as instrumental to their scoring success. Former Cowboys OL Marc Colombo gets a lot of credit for that, but not enough for them to hang on to him. He is, to be fair, a little short on experience having only coached since 2018. A more experienced, and very well regarded, possibility would be Hal Hunter if he’s not retained in New York. There’s also recently dismissed Bears OL coach Harry Hiestand, though he’s not as well thought of as Hunter. Flaherty seems the most likely choice though.

DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR

The Baylor Option: Phil Snow

Sometimes referred to as Rhule’s “right hand man”, Snow is the other name (along with Sean Ryan) already connected to Rhule by Giants beat writer Ralph Vacchiano. Snow’s been coaching defensive backs or serving as a DC at the college level since 1979. That period includes DC jobs at high level programs like UCLA, Washington, Arizona State and Boise State. It was in 2001 at UCLA where he connected with a young Matt Rhule, a DL coach at the time. Snow also has pro experience, having spent four years with the Detroit Lions (same team as Ryan, but different years) coaching linebackers. To top it off, he’s been with Rhule since 2013 at both Temple and Baylor and has a reputation for coaching solid defensive units. This one seems like a lock.

The Giants Option: A familiar name

The Giants DC in 2012 is a guy Panther fans know well. He’ll be discussed a little later.

The Wild Card Option: Wade Phillips, Kris Richard or Rod Marinelli

Phillips is certainly the hot name, though he’s known as a 3-4 guy. Rhule is said to prefer a 4-3 but didn’t sound absolutely tied to it. The other hot (and significantly younger) name out there is Kris Richard, late of the Cowboys, who received head coaching consideration this cycle but no job offers. Former Cowboys DL Coach and acknowledged defensive savant Rod Marinelli wants to continue coaching as well but is 70 (technically younger than Phillips). In this case though, all the forecasts are calling for Snow.

DEFENSIVE LINE COACH

The Baylor Option: Frank Okam or Joey McGuire

Baylor had separate coaches for defensive ends and defensive tackles. Defensive ends coach McGuire has been named the interim head coach after Rhule’s departure and is said to be the players’ favorite for the full time job. Okam is a former NFL player who has been coaching at the college level since 2014. He is a viable fit for a defensive line coach/assistant DL coach vacancy.

The Giants Option: Robert Nunn

Here’s a good option, but not necessarily one that’s available. Nunn coached the dominating Giants D-Line that helped them beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. He’s since coached a year with the Browns and is currently the DL Coach for the Jets. The only way he’d be attainable is if his contract is up (no way to know that) but he’d be a solid choice if it were.

The Wild Card Option: Rod Marinelli or Gary Emmanuel

Mentioned above as a DC candidate, Marinelli has been one of the better DL coaches in the league during his career. Since the DC job apparently belongs to Snow and the other candidates are either unavailable or underwhelming, I wouldn’t mind seeing us reach out to him. Recent Giants DL Coach Gary Emmanuel is another guy with a history that goes way back. You could speculate on longtime Panthers Julius Peppers here too, but I’ve seen nothing to indicate he wants to be a coach. And no, Eric Washington is not in the running.

LINEBACKER COACH

The Baylor Option: Mike Siravo

Confirmed by Joe Person to be a candidate for the job. College systems frequently have coaches doing double duty; hence Siravo coached both linebackers and special teams. He’s got history with both Rhule and expected DC Snow (another Temple to Baylor guy). He worked alongside Rhule at Temple, and later under him when Rhule was named head coach. No pro experience, but definite connection. Siravo also has a “sort of” connection to Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly since he was on the Boston College staff as a secondary coach when Luke was there as a linebacker. He was also on the Temple coaching staff in 2006 and coached former Panthers DT Andre Neblett.

The Giants Option: Jim Herrmann

Herrmann has the pro experience that Siravo lacks, but lacks the history with Rhule that Siravo has. He was an NFL linebackers coach for the Jets, Giants and Colts from 2006 to 2017 but since spent a year in the college ranks and is now another former Giant coach on Gilbride’s XFL staff. Doesn’t sound too likely here but possible.

The Wild Card Option: Al Golden or Al Holcomb

Here’s a case where one of the wild cards could actually be realistic as favorites. Al Golden was the Temple head coach who gave Rhule an opportunity by adding him to the Owls coaching staff. Golden later took over the University of Miami program at a bad time in their history but has since moved on to NFL assistant jobs. His latest was coaching the Lions linebackers, but they let go of him at the end of the season. It’d be no shock to see Rhule give the guy who gave him a shot long ago his next one today, perhaps at linebacker coach or maybe elsewhere. Also worth mentioning: While at Miami, Panthers DB Corn Elder was on his roster.

Perhaps less likely, though possible, is former Panthers LB coach Al Holcomb, a casualty of the Browns latest meltdown. Like Golden, Holcomb has the distinction of being connected both to Rhule and to the Panthers roster.  He was part of the 2012 Giants staff with Rhule but also coached Panthers linebackers from 2013 to 2017, including both the aforementioned Luke Kuechly and the recently extended Shaq Thompson. During that time, Holcomb was said to be held in high regard by Kuechly.  Like Golden, he could conceivably be looked at for other spots.

SECONDARY COACH

The Baylor Option: Evan Cooper

Again, a case of split coaching. Cooper coached the corners and Phil Snow (also the DC) coached the safeties. Cooper’s connection to Rhule doesn’t go back as far as others and he’s as much an administrator as a coach. Doesn’t seem all that plausible unless Rhule or Snow really likes him.

The Giants Option: Peter Giunta or David Merritt (technically)

Giunta spent several years coaching the Giants secondary but is currently a defensive assistant with the Saints so a secondary job would be a promotion for him. Merritt seems less likely to want to change jobs since he’s currently working for Andy Reid in Kansas City. Still, both could be overshadowed by another Giants coach we’ll get to shortly.

The Wild Card Option: Steve Wilks, Kris Richard or Ray Horton

Former Panthers DC and DB coach Wilks wasn’t invited to Ron Rivera’s family reunion in DC (neither was Richard Rodgers but…just, no) so maybe Rhule will look at him. Richard might be willing to accept another DB job (technically the Cowboys called him a defensive passing game coordinator) if he doesn’t get a DC job. Former Redskins assistant Ray Horton is also available and has a very solid reputation.  Ah, but then there’s…

The Panthers Option: Perry Fewell

Fewell was the Giants defensive coordinator in 2012 and a guy whom Panthers brass seem to like, just not enough to actually give him that head coach interview they told him they would. Still, Fewell’s specialty is coaching defensive backs.  Only problem? Some of his charges don’t think too much of his leadership or coaching style. He seems to have a particularly hard time connecting with guys named Donte, as both Whitner and Jackson have criticized him publicly. It’d depend on what Rhule thinks of him. Personally, I’d look elsewhere (Ray Horton would be great) but we’ll see what Rhule rules.

SPECIAL TEAMS COACH

The Baylor Option: Mike Siravo

Already discussed as a linebacker coach candidate though technically he coached special teams too. Obviously, Siravo can’t do both jobs in the NFL but if Rhule were to prefer one of the other LB coach candidates, he might hand this task to Siravo.

The Giants Option: Tom Quinn, Larry Izzo

Quinn has a long, if not necessarily illustrious history as a special teams coach. He’s one of the few coaches from the 2012 staff that remained with the Giants right up to the present.  Izzo has been mostly an assistant, of late with theSeahawks. He’s best known for being told by Jimmy Johnson that he was the second player to make the Dolphins roster thanks to a great special teams play. Prior to that, Johnson had told the team that only quarterback Dan Marino was guaranteed to stick. Don’t know if they’ll get a look.

The Wild Card Option: Mike Priefer or Thomas McGaughey

If McGaughey’s name sounds familiar, it should. He used to work here as a special teams guy but moved on to the Giants, who’ve since moved on from…well, everyone. Recent Cleveland ST Coach Priefer is the guy with the better reputation. He does, however, have a bit of controversy attached to his name due to some comments made while with the Vikings that were perceived as homophobic. The controversy has not affected his prior job status. There’s another name, though…

The Panthers Option: Chase Blackburn

Back in 2012, Blackburn wasn’t a coach. He was a linebacker on the Giants roster, so he and Rhule are likely at least acquainted. Blackburn was getting rave reviews early in the 2019 season for the Panthers special teams performances but their quality of play experienced a steep decline as the season wore on. The question becomes whether that falls on Blackburn or slacking players. Overall, I feel like he’d have a chance to stick as at least the special teams assistant coach, but maybe he has a shot to be the main guy too.

OTHER POSITIONS/CANDIDATES

Panthers Strength and Conditioning Coach Joe Kenn: Said to be well liked by management and ownership; general feeling is they want to keep him, but nothing’s official yet; has won awards for his performance in the past; nicknamed “House”

2012 Giants Strength and Conditioning Coach Jerry Palmieri: Spent several years on the Giants staff and has been praised for his work; was a college teammate of the late Sam Mills at Montclair State; hasn’t worked in the NFL since 2016

2012 Giants Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Markus Paul: Spent most of his career as an assistant but got promoted to a full time S&C guy with the Cowboys in 2018; was on staff in New England when the Patriots beat the Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVIII; also was a teammate of former Panthers head coach Ron Rivera with the Chicago Bears

Panthers Assistant Trainer Mark Shermansky:Ryan Vermillion’s assistant since 2002; speculated to be his successor unless the team goes outside for the hire; looks like famed talent show judge Simon Cowell (yeah, he’s that guy)

Former Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin: Last but not least, Coughlin was Rhule’s head coach for the year he spent in New York. Rhule mentioned wanting to have a former NFL head coach around to help him learn the job, and having one with two Super Bowl rings sounds like a pretty good deal. Coughlin would be an obvious choice, not necessarily as a staff member but perhaps in a consultant role. He’s available since the Jaguars recently parted ways with him as part of their staff shuffle.  There is the matter of his rather prickly personality of course, but Rhule could probably manage that and he’d potentially be very beneficial helping Rhule to learn the ins-and-outs of being an NFL head coach.

Time to sit back and see what happens next.