CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule said the decision to fire offensive coordinator Joe Brady on Sunday was “purely football.”
He made it clear there were no regrets in his 2020 decision to hire Brady, who at the time was a 30-year-old passing game coordinator for national champion LSU with no experience calling plays in the NFL or at any other level.
“When I took the job, I decided to be bold and step outside my comfort zone,” Rhule said on Monday. “I certainly don’t look at that as a mistake.”
Rhule didn’t specify what led to his decision, but he has consistently said the past month that the Panthers needed to be more committed to the run and be better coming out of halftime.
The Panthers (5-7) had only a combined 39 rushes the past two games combined, including 18 in a loss to the Miami Dolphins before the bye week. Rhule said after an Oct. 17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings he wanted 30 to 33 rushes per game.
Brady also wasn’t effective at halftime adjustments. Carolina is averaging only 2.1 points in the third quarter to rank 31st in the NFL, with only Houston, at 1.8 points, worse.
Overall, the team ranks 29th in offense after ranking 21st a year ago in Brady’s first season as a playcaller.
Rhule called Brady’s replacement, running backs coach Jeff Nixon, a “calming, steadying influence.”
Nixon was Rhule’s co-offensive coordinator at Baylor in 2019. That team averaged 36 rushes a game.
“He’s done a lot to get us moving in the right direction,” Rhule said of Brady, 32. “But this was something I felt from a football perspective had to be done.”
Rhule said he “anticipates” Cam Newton being his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons. He also didn’t rule out mixing in PJ Walker, reminding that the former XFL star is 2-0 as a starter in the NFL.
Rhule said he had some “feelings” a change needed to be made at offensive coordinator coming off the Miami loss. He spent the week evaluating film not only of games but also practice.
He made the decision to fire Brady late last week. The two had a meeting scheduled for Saturday, but that was pushed to Sunday because Brady had a conflict.
Rhule made it clear the decision to move on from Brady was his and not a request from owner David Tepper. He said the meeting with Brady ended in a handshake and a hug.
“I hope this is the right move,” Rhule said. “It was purely football. This is in the best interest of us moving forward.”