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Panthers are keeping Matt Rhule for 2022

The Bucs are comfortably in the playoffs, and Mike Florio sees them using their Week 18 game against the sinking Panthers as a tune-up for the postseason.

Matt Rhule will return to the Panthers for a third season, per multiple local and national reports.

Rhule, 46, has won only five games in each of his first two seasons with one game remaining this season. The 10-22 record seemingly had him on the hot seat and has prompted chants of “Fire Rhule!” at recent home games.

The Panthers, though, will give Rhule another year to prove he can do in the NFL what he did in college at Temple and Baylor. Owner David Tepper signed Rhule to a seven-year deal before the 2020 season.

Rhule reportedly will begin the search for a new offensive coordinator next week, after the team fired offensive coordinator Joe Brady on Dec. 5. Senior offensive assistant Jeff Nixon took over Brady’s role with help from the rest of the offensive coaching staff.

The Panthers rank 30th in total offense, including 29th in passing, and are 29th in points scored. The have swung and missed at the most important position in Rhule’s two seasons.

Carolina signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $63 million deal in March 2020. He lasted one year. The Panthers replaced Bridgewater with Sam Darnold, trading a 2021 sixth-rounder and a second- and fourth-rounder in 2022. When Darnold went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury in November, the Panthers brought Cam Newton home.

The Panthers, who inquired about Deshaun Watson at the trade deadline, surely will have a different starting quarterback next season.

They have not made the playoffs or had a winning season since 2017.