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Carolina Panthers: 10 Coaching Candidates to Replace Matt Rhule

Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers

Matt Rhule is out as Carolina's head coach after going 11-27 in less than three seasons.

Matt Rhule accepted the job with the Carolina Panthers because he believed he was going to be given time to rebuild the organization from top to bottom. But this is a results-driven league, and after a 1-4 start to the year and an 11-27 overall record, the pink slip finally came on Monday to make Rhule the first NFL head coach shown the door this year.

Related: 5 NFL Head Coaches on the Hot Seat Entering the 2022 Season

Where do the Panthers go from here as a supposed five- or six-year process hits the reset button under impatient owner David Tepper? There's a wealth of options for the franchise to sort through and plenty of directions to go as Carolina looks finally nail down a coach that can find them a quarterback and get back to winning consistently.

Former Head Coaches

Sean Payton, former Saints head coach
As soon as Rhule was shown the door, Payton's name was bound to show up in connection with the opening given his Super Bowl credentials and how he shepherded the organization down in New Orleans. The 58-year-old is enjoying his time off but would likely need full control of the roster and a mega payday to go with it. The front office would also have to do a little convincing that the quarterback issues that have plagued the team the past few years can be fixed.

Bill O'Brien, former Texans head coach
O'Brien had five seasons of at least nine wins in Houston, four division titles, and a good track record at developing quarterbacks — marks the Panthers would crawl over broken glass to find in their next head coach. While he's proven to be a bad GM, his track record on the field speaks for itself having been a play-caller for a Bill Belichick team that reached the Super Bowl and a Nick Saban team that reached the College Football Playoff National Championship. Not a name to win over the fan base but it is one that could win some games.

NFL Assistants

Dan Quinn, Cowboys defensive coordinator
The hot assistant name this year will certainly be Quinn, who has done some incredible work turning around the Dallas defense into one of the best units in the league. He's a former head coach who knows what it takes to win and was interviewed a few times last year for openings. The early exit by Rhule could allow for more time to watch what Quinn is doing with one of the bigger surprises out of the NFC.

DeMeco Ryans, 49ers defensive coordinator
Carolina got a good look at what Ryans is capable of on Sunday in a 37-15 loss to San Francisco. His units have been particularly adept at making the most of a growing injury list and finding guys from under-the-radar places and allowing them to thrive. The former first-team All-Pro linebacker is bound for a top job soon but will need a clear offensive plan to win over anybody who thinks he's still on the young side.

Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator
Leftwich has interviewed for several openings but has been picky about his first head-coaching gig, preferring the right situation to override just being part of a club of 32. Carolina having a blank slate with a committed owner could be enticing for one of the few who can claim a ring as a player and coordinator in the league. Don't discount the Steelers connection either as Leftwich played for the organization when David Tepper owned a part of the team.

Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator
The former backup quarterback will continue to hear his name come up for vacancies after the way he's helped turn Cooper Rush into an unbeatable starter in Dallas just a year after having one of the top offenses in the league. He's only 34 but would bring a fresh perspective on how to run an NFL team and likely lean into the numbers that made owner David Tepper so much money over the years.

Ken Dorsey, Bills offensive coordinator
Many were worried the Bills offense would take a big step back with Brian Daboll taking the Giants' job but that hasn't really been the case with Dorsey, who will garner interest as one of the top assistants on the NFL's top team. His antics in the booth earlier this season didn't do him a ton of favors, but perhaps that trademark passion is just what a Panthers team that rarely seemed motivated needs. He was Carolina's QBs coach from 2013-17 so he knows the building and the lay of the land too.

Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
Every cycle over the past few years has seen Bieniemy's name pop up for interviews but he's still plugging away in Kansas City winning games with Patrick Mahomes and company. He's a former player whose passion is a definite plus and clearly has the offensive chops to make the product on the field entertaining.

Raheem Morris, Rams defensive coordinator
Morris has spent nearly his entire NFL coaching career in the NFC South and knows what it takes to be a head coach after stints in Tampa Bay and Atlanta. He's fresh off a Super Bowl run with the Rams and is still just 46.

College Coaches

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
The Panthers are unlikely to go back to the college ranks a second straight time but… if they did, perhaps the guy who has a 44-19-1 mark in the NFL with three straight NFC Championship Game appearances would be an exception. Harbaugh led the Wolverines to the College Football Playoff last year but still interviewed with the Vikings prior to returning to Ann Arbor. If the franchise wants a splash hire who can also win, there's just one name from the FBS ranks to call.

— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.