NFL Power Rankings: Panthers' Matt Rhule mistake is a reminder about college coaches

We could have saved Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper $62 million and 38 games of misery by showing him one list.

When Tepper couldn't wait to get on a plane to give Matt Rhule a seven-year, $62 million contract to leave Baylor for the NFL, he was ignoring that college coaches don't work in the NFL. It was proven again Monday when Tepper fired Rhule after he put together an 11-27 record as Panthers head coach. He was owed more than $40 million when he was fired.

Miles Garrett from Fox 5 in Atlanta compiled the list of college coaches making the NFL leap for the first time since 2000, and it's not pretty:

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Jim Harbaugh is clearly the No. 1 success story from that list. No. 2 is ... Bill O'Brien? No. 3 is ... ummm ... Chip Kelly or Butch Davis?!?

It's not good. Some of the names on that list are some of the biggest whiffs in recent NFL memory, like Urban Meyer, Bobby Petrino and Steve Spurrier. Pete Carroll is an ongoing college-to-NFL success story, but Carroll was in the NFL first before going to USC and building his reputation up there. Tom Coughlin is another win but he also had extensive NFL experience before going to Boston College, from which he was hired by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1995. That's a few lifetimes ago, in NFL years.

The NFL and college football are different worlds, as we found out again with Rhule. His offensive concepts didn't work in the NFL, in large part because he didn't have a quarterback to run those concepts. Rhule was a big miss in the NFL but immediately becomes the hottest name in the college coaching market now that he's free. That says a lot. And he'll probably do well there, as he did at Temple and Baylor. Nick Saban can be the greatest college coach ever and have a career 15-17 NFL record. That's OK; they're much different jobs.

For some college coaching stars, they figure out in the NFL that they can't just recruit the best players and out-talent everyone. Others figure out that berating grown men won't scare them into results, like it might in college with younger players. For others, the Xs and Os that worked against lesser college athletes didn't have success when practically every NFL defender in the back seven can run a 4.4 in the 40. Meyer, the worst coach in NFL history, checked all of those boxes.

Rhule didn't work and it shouldn't be a surprise. If you want to hire that hot name out of the college ranks, you're going to go through a lot of Bobby Petrinos before you find a Pete Carroll. Maybe Rhule would have done better if his primary quarterbacks weren't Teddy Bridgwater, Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield, but we'll never know. Rhule also had a lot of personnel power that Tepper granted him, and Rhule didn't do a lot to fix that quarterback issue.

Rhule was a mistake, one that was predicted by many when the shocking details of his contract were reported. Rhule will go on to be a big hire at Nebraska or Auburn or wherever, and the Panthers will start over. This time, they probably won't be hiring a college coach.

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule was fired in the middle of his third season with the team. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule was fired in the middle of his third season with the team. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)

Here are the power rankings after Week 5 of the NFL season:

32. Carolina Panthers (1-4, Last Week: 31)

Well, this feels like rock bottom. Matt Rhule was fired after five miserable games. Baker Mayfield has a high ankle sprain and is likely to miss time, though P.J. Walker can't do much worse. It's a mess.

31. Washington Commanders (1-4, LW: 30)

Carson Wentz was determined to throw an interception after the Commanders got to first-and-goal at the Titans' 2-yard line. He finally did throw the pick to end the game, after nearly throwing one on the first two goal-to-go plays. When your coach says the difference between your rebuild and the other teams in the NFC East and his response is, "Quarterback," well, the frustration seems to be clear.

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30. Houston Texans (1-3-1, LW: 32)

Dameon Pierce is really good. Pro Football Focus said he forced 17 missed tackles against the Jaguars, the most PFF has ever recorded in a single game. If Pierce stays healthy he has a good shot at NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

29. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4, LW: 28)

To avoid Mike Tomlin's first losing season, the Steelers will have to go 8-4 the rest of the way. It's hard to see that happening. On top of it, Diontae Johnson let out some frustration on the fans:

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It's not going well in Pittsburgh.

28. Chicago Bears (2-3, LW: 29)

Justin Fields had his best game of the season with 15 completions for 208 yards. He was averaging 8.5 completions and 117.8 yards per game before that, which is unfathomable in the modern NFL. Sunday was a passing game explosion for the Bears. The Bears were forced into passing more after falling behind 21-3 and it went pretty well. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to keep playing a style better suited in 1962.

27. Detroit Lions (1-4, LW: 24)

At least the Lions could count on a fun offense before Sunday. Getting shut out in New England was a big step back. All of a sudden it's just a 1-4 team with a horrendous defense and an offense we can't even count on anymore. The Lions go into the bye with any preseason excitement about this season long gone. No wonder they had a team psychologist meeting on Monday.

26. Seattle Seahawks (2-3, LW: 26)

Rashaad Penny is done for the season with a broken leg, and that's a rough break for a player who has flashed elite talent when healthy. Kenneth Walker III steps in and that shouldn't be much of a step back for a surprisingly good offense.

25. Atlanta Falcons (2-3, LW: 23)

The Falcons have every right to be mad about the instantly infamous roughing the passer call on Grady Jarrett, which robbed them of a chance to get the ball back trailing the Buccaneers 21-15. The Falcons do have some blame for playing so poorly in the first three quarters they were trailing 21-0. The horrible call was still a tough way to end that game for Atlanta.

24. New York Jets (3-2, LW: 27)

The Jets caught a break against Miami when Teddy Bridgewater left the game in the first quarter due to the concussion protocol and an elbow injury too. And that's OK, nobody was feeling sorry for the Jets when their injuries were happening. The Jets are 3-2 and not many people saw that happening. In particular, rookie running back Breece Hall looks like a future star. He had 197 yards in the win on Sunday.

23. Arizona Cardinals (2-3, LW: 18)

The final sequence on Sunday, with Kyler Murray sliding too soon, then spiking the ball when he probably didn't have to, was not ideal. That came right before a missed field goal and a loss. That's the kind of sloppy mistake that's holding the Cardinals back. On the bright side, the Cardinals' black helmets looked really sharp.

22. Denver Broncos (2-3, LW: 17)

Russell Wilson had a procedure done on his throwing shoulder, which hopefully will help a strained lat muscle. Maybe that's what's causing him to struggle, but it doesn't seem like that's the entire answer. Still, not being at full health can't help. And it seems doubtful he'll be fully healthy before the Broncos play again on Monday night.

21. Las Vegas Raiders (1-4, LW: 21)

Should Josh McDaniels have gone for two and the lead with 4:27 left against the Chiefs Monday night? Against Patrick Mahomes, it was probably the right call. It's debatable though. And it's just another rough loss for the Raiders. Las Vegas might be the unluckiest 1-4 team ever. Their four losses are by a combined 14 points. They are frustrated, but Davante Adams is going to regret shoving a cameraman on his way to the locker room after Monday's loss.

20. New England Patriots (2-3, LW: 25)

The Patriots hadn't had a great game on defense this season, unless you count Week 2 against a bad Steelers offense. They were very good on Sunday in shutting out a Lions offense that had been excellent through four weeks. New England will need the defense to keep playing like that if it wants to stick in the playoff race.

19. Indianapolis Colts (2-2-1, LW: 20)

If Russell Wilson saw K.J. Hamler on that last play, the focus of Thursday night's brutally ugly game would have been how poorly the Colts are playing. But the Colts pulled off a 12-9 win and all of a sudden, with the Jaguars stumbling, the division is still right there for the taking. But Indianapolis has to improve. A lot.

18. Cleveland Browns (2-3, LW: 16)

The Browns are allowing rushing yards in bunches. Only the Lions and Chargers allow more rushing yards per attempt this season. They couldn't slow down Austin Ekeler on Sunday. The next two opponents are the Patriots and Ravens, who are going to test that defense on the ground. The Browns have to find a way to get better, and perhaps adding linebacker Deion Jones in a trade with Atlanta is a step toward that.

17. New Orleans Saints (2-3, LW: 19)

Taysom Hill stole the show with three rushing touchdowns and a passing touchdown, but perhaps more important to New Orleans going forward was Alvin Kamara having his best game of the season. Kamara had 103 yards rushing, 91 yards receiving and looked like he's over the injuries that have held him back early this season. That's great news for the Saints.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-3, LW: 12)

We're looking for reasons to be skeptical about teams like the Jaguars, who have struggled for so many years. They provided a big one with a horrific loss at home against a previously winless Texans team. Scoring six points at home vs. Houston is really bad. Trevor Lawrence shouldn't be having games like he did on Sunday. It's a clear step back for a Jaguars team that had been showing some promise.

15. Cincinnati Bengals (2-3, LW: 13)

The deep ball is missing from the Bengals offense. Joe Burrow's percentage of deep passes, his efficiency on those passes and his average depth of target are all near the bottom of the league. The Bengals aren't attempting many deep shots and aren't hitting many when they do try. Offensive line issues don't help that. Not having Tee Higgins for most of the loss to the Ravens after he went down with an ankle injury hampered them too. But somehow, Cincinnati needs to rediscover the deep passing game or this season isn't going to turn out as they hope.

14. New York Giants (4-1, LW: 22)

Give Brian Daboll a ton of credit. If the season ended today, would he be NFL Coach of the Year? It's possible, because anyone can see that the Giants don't have a lot of pieces other than Saquon Barkley. Somehow they're getting it done. Daniel Jones is playing pretty well. The defense shut out Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense in the second half on Sunday. And 4-1 is 4-1. Sunday's comeback win in London was a big step for the Giants, especially in terms of confidence going forward.

13. Los Angeles Rams (2-3, LW: 10)

A lot of offenses will struggle against the 49ers and Cowboys, so perhaps we shouldn't measure the Rams on the last two games. It continues to look bad though. The offensive line is the one issue that has to improve or the offense won't get much better. You can't throw deep or run the ball when the offensive line can't block, and that's where the Rams' issues start.

12. Tennessee Titans (3-2, LW: 15)

Looking back, losses to the Giants and Bills to start the season weren't so bad. The Titans have figured things out, Derrick Henry is back to his high-volume dominance and Jeffery Simmons is carrying the defense from his tackle position. With the Jaguars and Colts both showing their weaknesses, this looks like the AFC South favorite all of a sudden.

11. Los Angeles Chargers (3-2, LW: 14)

Brandon Staley is lucky the Browns missed a field goal after he went for it on fourth-and-2 and the Chargers came up short, because he'd be getting blasted for that call. He is not pushing the right buttons this season. But the Chargers have won a couple game after a distressing 1-2 start that included some big injuries. Next up they get the struggling Broncos at home, followed by the Seahawks and Falcons. Those are three winnable games.

10. Miami Dolphins (3-2, LW: 5)

The NFL is unfair. No, the Dolphins were never the best team in the NFL, as some were saying after they started 3-0. But they were good. Then they lost a quarterback in each of the past two games and are 3-2. Both games were close in the fourth quarter and probably Miami wins if they had their quarterback who started the game. It's hard to even get a true read on Miami until they get Tua Tagovailoa back.

9. Minnesota Vikings (4-1, LW: 11)

It would be nice to see the Vikings play four full quarters. They got by the Lions and Bears at home with a couple of nice late escapes, but that's not the sign of a dominant team. The Vikings are 4-1 but there's some work to do. The good news is those wins, and their lead over the Packers in the division, aren't going anywhere. They just need to play better to hang onto that lead.

8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-2, LW: 7)

It's a little concerning the Buccaneers were hanging on at the end against the Falcons after building a 21-0 lead in the third quarter. They needed a horrible roughing the passer penalty to close it out. But for now let's focus on the positive, and that would be the offense playing really well through the first three quarters. Now we have an idea of where the Buccaneers can go if the health cooperates.

7. Green Bay Packers (3-2, LW: 4)

We hadn't been paying enough attention to the Packers defense being just OK this season. They'd won three in a row and any questions usually had to do with the receiver position. After a one-dimensional Giants team beat them in London, there are more questions about why a Packers defense that looked great on paper coming into the season hasn't been as good as advertised. That's a huge factor for the Packers if they want to be a championship contender, because their offense isn't going to be elite.

6. San Francisco 49ers (3-2, LW: 9)

Not that it's hard to shut down the Panthers these days, but the defense continues to look like the best in the NFL. The issue now is injuries. Defensive end Nick Bosa injured his groin, safety Jimmie Ward has a broken hand and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley has a torn ACL. Those are big concerns.

5. Baltimore Ravens (3-2, LW: 6)

It wasn't pretty but Sunday night's win was enormous for the Ravens. Lamar Jackson got the clutch drive when he needed it, setting up a game-winning Justin Tucker field goal. The Ravens also avoided having to hear about blowing a double-digit lead in a loss for the third time this season. Given the other issues in the AFC North, getting a win over the Bengals was big for Baltimore's hopes of winning the division.

4. Dallas Cowboys (4-1, LW: 8)

If the Cowboys beat the Eagles on Sunday night, we'll have to take them seriously as a Super Bowl contender. What they've done without Dak Prescott is pretty amazing. The defense is top-three good. The offense will be good, too, when Prescott returns. (It's odd how so many wrote that group completely off for one bad game against Tampa Bay to start the season ... even odder how people still want to stump for Cooper Rush to start over Prescott when he's healthy.) Losing at Philadelphia wouldn't be that bad. Beating the Eagles would have everyone taking a second look at how good the Cowboys are.

3. Kansas City Chiefs (4-1, LW: 3)

The Chiefs were tested by the Raiders. The comeback from a 17-0 deficit was impressive, though it also seemed inevitable because Patrick Mahomes is a magician. Travis Kelce also had one of the weirdest stat lines you'll ever see: seven catches for 25 yards but four touchdowns, a Chiefs record for a tight end.

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2. Philadelphia Eagles (5-0, LW: 2)

The Eagles offensive line against the Cowboys front on Sunday night will be one of the best matchups of the season. The Eagles have by far the league's best pass blocking grade on Pro Football Focus through five games. The Cowboys are the top pass-rushing team in PFF's grades. The eye test backs up both of those grades too. It's a fun thing to watch during a great Week 6 matchup.

1. Buffalo Bills (4-1, LW: 1)

The Bills' top gear is pretty amazing. But if they go to Kansas City in Week 6 and lose to the Chiefs next week, blowout wins over the Rams, Titans and Steelers won't matter as much. They want to make sure they're not playing a postseason game at Arrowhead Stadium for a third straight year, and it'll be hard to avoid that if they lose Sunday.