2021 NFL turnaround candidates: Don’t sleep on Cowboys, Jets – NFL.com

Urban Meyer’s hire in Jacksonville has stirred comparisons to Jimmy Johnson taking the Cowboys reins. But when I ponder Johnson parallels, it’s Matt Rhule who comes to mind.

He formed a coaching staff essentially devoid of NFL experience, but pulled off five wins after groupthink had pegged Carolina as one of worst teams in football. Eight of the Panthers’ losses were one-score defeats, including a 33-31 heartbreaker at Kansas City in early November. Previous stops at Temple and Baylor revealed Rhule as a shifter of culture — and we saw hints of it last season in Carolina.

Carolina used all seven of its 2020 draft picks to bolster Phil Snow’s defense and came out encouraged by the emerging play of front-door-sized behemoth Derrick Brown, playmaking safety Jeremy Chinn and edge man Yetur Gross-Matos (who did some damage lining up across from 2019 first-rounder Brian Burns).

On offense, coordinator Joe Brady netted head-coaching interviews after authoring an attack that overcame the loss of Christian McCaffrey to wind up as one of the league’s more watchable units. Teddy Bridgewater is aptly named for the role he played — a bridge over troubled waters (apologies) — amid whispers the club might pursue Deshaun Watson in a trade that would leave the NFC South in a state of panic.

Even if they don’t score Watson, the Panthers could nab a franchise signal-caller in a quarterback-rich draft. With innovate David Tepper operating as one of the league’s most aggressive owners, prepare yourself for an active offseason potentially filled with a few jaw-dropping lever pulls.

Jimmy Johnson 2.0 resides in Charlotte.

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