CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Cam Newton heard the boos when quarterback Sam Darnold replaced him for the first time early in the second quarter of the Carolina Panthers ‘ 32-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he heard the chants "Fire Matt Rhule” that came later.
The 32-year-old quarterback doesn’t know what the future holds for him with the Panthers (5-10), officially eliminated from playoff contention after their fifth straight loss on Sunday, but he believes the organization has a future under the second-year head coach.
"Coach Rhule is a great coach,” Newton said after what could have been his last home game as a member of the Panthers since he’s not under contract for 2022. "Last thing I checked, coach Rhule wasn’t out there playing.
"I just know we’re a good football team. It may not look like that all the time, but I know what I see in practice and I know what I’ve seen over these last couple of weeks, we’re a good football team and we can win. It’s just about us believing we can win and not taking the easy route and be able to grunt games away.”
The 2015 NFL MVP defended Rhule’s decision to insert Darnold on the third series and then use both quarterbacks the rest of the way. He reminded the decision was made earlier in the week because Rhule felt it gave Carolina the best chance of winning even though he wasn’t a fan of a two-quarterback system.
"I can tell you right now it wasn’t because of the coaching,” Newton said of what happened Sunday. "It wasn’t because of what a person may have said or done. The truth of the matter is, we’re all playing for jobs.
"If you don’ think as a coach you wouldn’t do the right things to win and build your tenure here, you wouldn’t do it.”
Rhule also heard the boos, but he didn’t take them personally — at least the ones aimed at him.
"I come from Philadelphia,” Rhule said. "To me, it just shows people care. We’re not winning. I have no problem with that. People spend hard-earned money to come watch us play.
"When you’re the head coach, the quarterback, that’s all part of it. I would much prefer passion over apathy. I would much prefer pressure over nothing. I could do something else.”
Despite being 10-21 with two games left this season, despite Carolina assured of its fourth straight losing season overall, Rhule believes "1,000%” the organization is headed in the right direction.
Rhule said this past week that he’s had no talks with owner David Tepper about his future and there has been no indication from ownership that Rhule’s job is in jeopardy less than two full years after being given a seven-year, $60 million deal.
"I hate it for our fans that we’re not winning,” said Rhule, who turned around college programs at Temple and Baylor before moving to the NFL in 2020. "I know how much they want to win. I hear from them. I hear you."But […]