The Carolina Panthers drafted quarterback Matt Corral on Saturday, but it wasn’t as a backup to Cam Newton. Instead the team selected him for his potential three-year apprenticeship under coach Matt Rhule, who served as the Philadelphia Eagles’ offensive coordinator in 2005 and 2006 before going on to lead Baylor’s football program from 2007 until he resigned last month amid an investigation into sexual assault allegations that has since led to criminal charges against 10 people connected to the university.
CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Matt Rhule, the coach of the Carolina Panthers, has had a fantastic week, and not only because he could have found his future quarterback in a man with his first name, Matt Corral.
It’s because, all of a sudden, Rhule seems to have a future with the team beyond the 2022 season.
Despite consecutive five-win seasons, owner David Tepper finally handed his third-year coach a vote of confidence on Wednesday. It continued on Thursday, when Rhule took NC State left lineman Ikem “Ickey” Ekwonu with the sixth overall choice in the NFL draft, despite the fact that few expected him to be there.
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Late Friday night, general manager Scott Fitterer made a third-round deal to select Ole Miss quarterback Corral, who had been anticipated as a first- or second-round choice.
“Kenny Chesney and this,” Rhule remarked after the Corral selection, noting that the country music artist was scheduled to play at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday night. “What could be better in Charlotte?” says the narrator.
Only the background music of Chesney’s 2018 smash “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” was missing.
Here are a couple lyrics that seem fitting here, if you haven’t heard them:
“Tell me something nice that I don’t know, since this world has been pounding my behind for a long time.” Life hasn’t been kind to me recently, and I’ve been feeling a little down. She shifted her gaze back over her shoulder, pointing to the wall-mounted placard. ‘Everything will be OK,’ it said. Everything is going to be OK.’
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When it came to turning over the programs at Temple and Baylor, he was the difficult sort of kid Rhule embraced.
“Everyone goes through things in their lives, and we do a pretty excellent job of separating folks who have a problem or issue that can’t be solved from others who are going through something in their lives,” Rhule said. “I don’t know about you, but I went through a lot when I was 18, 19, 20, 21, and 22.”
“I have a lot of respect for individuals who have gone through a lot and are strong enough and open enough to speak about it, and Matt is absolutely one of them.”
Corral is in a perfect position to start his NFL career in several ways. For a club that has gone 10-33 in the last two seasons, expectations are minimal, and there is no pressure on him to start right away.
If Darnold suffers, as he has for the most of his four NFL seasons, with a record of 17-32 as a starter, there is also a chance to play early.
There’s a reason the Panthers spent the first half of the summer attempting to trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who ended up in Cleveland.
Corral is a long way from being the solution Watson could have provided, but he is someone the coaching staff saw as having the potential to be spectacular based on footage, and who was in some ways better than the other four quarterbacks they evaluated for the selection (Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell).
In college, he completed 67.9% of his passes with flying colors. He possesses a lightning fast release. He’s versatile enough to defeat you with both his legs and his arm (rushing for 614 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2021).
His colleagues adore him, and his ability to lead might be his most valuable attribute.
“Apart from his physical qualities, one of the things that really stuck out was his competitiveness and tenacity,” Fitterer added. “I mean, he took a beating, but he kept getting up, kept getting up,” says the narrator.
If all goes well, this will be beneficial to both Matts. Maybe one day they’ll inspire a Chesney song.