CHARLOTTE, NC — There were no chicken wing giveaways at the dd Peckers Wing Shack on Tuesday.
Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule was not fired after losing to the New York Giants on Sunday.
But restaurant owner Justin Holland would have gladly fulfilled his free wings offer on social media (which could have cost him well over $10,000) if Rhule had been fired at 5 p.m. Monday.
@panthers If Matt Rhule is fired at 5 p.m. tomorrow, free wings Tuesday. Limit 10 per customer, use code FireRhule
—dd Peckers (@ddPeckers_CLT) September 18, 2022
It’s an example of how dire the situation is for the Panthers after an 0-2 start that extended their losing streak to nine in a row, the longest in the NFL and one short of the second-longest run in team history, ahead of Sunday’s home game against the New Orleans Saints (1 p.m. ET, Fox)
Holland blames Rhule, whose record is 10-25 overall and 4-13 at home since taking over as head coach in 2020, although owner David Tepper does not indicate a change is imminent.
“I got hacked,” said Holland, who started the promotion after Sunday’s 19-16 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. “I had enough of it.”
Former Saints coach Jim Mora understands the frustration.
He took over a New Orleans team in 1986 that was the most inept in the NFL with 19 straight seasons without a win.
He arrived six seasons away from New Orleans radio personality Buddy Dilberto, first putting a brown paper bag over his head with the word “Aints” scrawled across the front during their 1-15 season 1980.
Saints fans quickly followed suit, and the fad spread to other markets and other sports with perennial losers.
“They were so hungry for a winner,” recalled Mora, who delivered a winning record in his second season.
Fans aren’t putting bags over their heads in Charlotte, but frustration is mounting from longtime supporters such as Holland, 50, who has been overwhelmed by the response to his promotion.
They fear Carolina will become a laughing stock.
“I try to support them,” Holland said. “I hang my flag every Sunday, but losers get old.”
The Panthers haven’t won at home in more than a calendar year, dating back to last season against New Orleans on Sept. 19. Such streaks often get coaches fired.
According to ELIAS, Carolina is the 12th team in the last 10 seasons to go a full year without a win at home. Among the others – Atlanta Falcons, Cleveland Browns (twice), Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions (twice), Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, Las Vegas Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans and Washington Commanders – all except Dallas and Cleveland have had at least four different coaches in that span.
Only the Giants (21-46), Lions (18-47-2), Jets (18-49) and Jaguars (16-51) have a worse record than Carolina since 2018.
So the Panthers, who haven’t had a winning record since 2017, look set to become an eternal loser.
Rhule, in the third year of a seven-year, $62 million contract, disagrees.
“Any thought of ‘There’s a loser mentality in this building’ is a lie,” he said. “Because if you’re in this building, you want to win.”
Panthers players who have been with other perennial losers don’t feel Carolina has reached the point of being listed with those other teams. Former New York Jets catcher Robbie Anderson said Rhule was not the reason for the slip-up.
“I’m playing this game for Coach Rhule,” said Anderson, who was part of the Temple team that Rhule returned to in his third season. “He receives a lot of criticism. It is not him. For me, knowing what we know as a team, he tells us what we need to do.
Panthers players and coaches think they’re about to turn things around and get the fans involved.
“Really, I don’t mind. I’ve faced boos in the past,” quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “We would like our fan base to help us with the energy. At the end of the day, if we perform, they are going to be loud for us. ”
Although Rhule didn’t allow the Panthers to break their losing streak, both losses this season have been close games, with field goals 58 and 56 yards in the fourth quarter, the first time this has happened. for consecutive weeks in NFL history.
“I just wanna make sure to say we’re close [to winning]” Rhule said on Sunday. “I believe in it with all my heart.”
Rhule explained Wednesday that he said “close” because “as a head coach you are responsible for the guys, their mindset and their psyche,” not as an excuse.
“Make no mistake, when we walk in here on Monday, there’s no, like, ‘Hey, it’s okay guys,'” Rhule added. “There are a lot of angry people here who are dying to win. …It’s a tough place to live. It’s a frustrating place.
“But at the same time, we’re, ‘We’re here.’ You have to fight to get out of it.”
Mora understands, but he would advise Rhule not to use the word “close” publicly. His 49ers speech summed up what closeness means to him.
“We’re close, and close doesn’t mean s—” he said. “And you can put that on TV for me.”
Cornerback Donte Jackson says players need to be smart and look past the “stories” of fans.
“Nothing they say or do will affect us here,” he said.
Safety Juston Burris played for the Jets and Browns, and so far he doesn’t resent the losing culture he experienced with those teams.
“With maturity, you learn to block out outside noise,” he said. “Once we start winning again, these people will come back.”
“People like to find someone to blame for things,” he said. “[Rhule’s] at the top of the graph. It’s just what comes with his position and his job. Knowing what we know, he does what he has to do.
“…From our point of view, we are here.”
Holland hopes so. He wants to believe victory will come back like it was in 2015 when the Panthers had a 15-1 regular season record in the NFL and reached the Super Bowl.
But on Sunday, he was so frustrated that his emotions spilled onto Twitter and Facebook.
“To me, it looked like they needed a change, so I threw in my two cents,” he said.
The response on Twitter alone to a site that has 926 followers was 5,877 likes and 280 comments.
Holland can’t imagine what fans will say if Carolina loses on Sunday, tying the Panthers’ 10-game losing streak in 2019-20, five shy of the 15 straight to end the 2001 season.
“I usually get four likes,” Holland said. “So believe me, I’m not alone.”