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Matt Rhule Did Not Make The Panthers The Taste Of A New Generation

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 02: Head coach Matt Rhule of the Carolina Panthers looks on during the second half of their game against the Arizona Cardinals at Bank of America Stadium on October 02, 2022 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers fired Matt Rhule last week after he compiled a 11-27 record over his three-plus seasons as head coach. Not great! This means that we are now getting into the denoument of his Panthers tenure, and it’s already been satisfying in ways that his actual stint as head coach never was. Last week, for instance, the Charlotte media rattled Panthers owner David Tepper enough his press conference devolved into a rant about how he introduced live music to the city.

Today, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones reports on a document titled “The Way of the Panther,” which he calls “a three-page treatise on the team's process and vision under Rhule.” Much of the document focuses on important aspects of football like “win the line of scrimmage,” a thing the Panthers almost never managed to do in Rhule’s two seasons and change. But the contrast between the grandiosity of Rhule’s vision and the extreme Panthers-ness of his record isn’t the only part that’s funny in retrospect:

The document states that “if you can't write down” this plan and “the Brand,” the staff member is “not OOU.” That is an acronym commonly used in the building that stands for “One Of Us.” OOU was used regularly in the draft and free-agency process to determine what players Carolina should and should not target. The acronym came to be mocked regularly by some staffers in the last year-plus.

Jones does not report whether the document also notes that “OOU” means “players and coaches affiliated with Temple University.” Most of the document, though, is just normal football coaching things that didn’t work out. You do want players that fit! You should try to win the line of scrimmage! That said, this part is just baffling:

“Pepsi tastes like Pepsi 24 hours a day! We have a Brand at the Panthers,” the document reads. “This Brand defines us both on the field and in everyday life. We are: The Toughest, Hardest Working, Most Competitive Team in the NFL.”

Taste is subjective. You may believe that Pepsi is the best soda. You may only drink Sprite. You may hunt the fridges of this nation's convenience stores in search of Cherry Coke Zero Sugar. But there is no doubt that the soda brand one should shoot for, if one is trying to create an aspirational brand for one's rudderless NFC South franchise, is Coca-Cola. For many people, soda is synonymous with Coke. They have a wide market share. They even basically created the modern image of Santa Claus. Meanwhile the brand of Pepsi is, more or less, “Is Pepsi OK?”

Was Matt Rhule just being depressingly resigned to accuracy when he compared his brand to Pepsi? Did Rhule see that Pepsi was the last soda in the vending machine and assume that meant that it was also the first one in? Had the Jets already trademarked a comparison to RC Cola? The Panthers weren’t even sponsored by Pepsi anymore when Rhule got the job! No matter the reasoning, it’s clear: Matt Rhule wanted his team to be Pepsi. He got New Coke.

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