Put this down as good news for Eagles fans, and especially for Temple fans who are Eagles fans, who were going to have a hard time rooting for former Owls coach Matt Rhule as coach of the New York Giants.
Not an issue anymore. Did the Giants fumble, failing to get Rhule in for a scheduled interview before he reportedly agreed to a deal Tuesday with the Carolina Panthers? That’s all to be determined, if the Giants decided Patriots assistant Joe Judge, a Lansdale Catholic graduate, was their man over Rhule.
Wasn’t the Giants head-coaching office supposed to be Rhule’s dream destination? Didn’t he grow up on Roosevelt Island on the East River? Didn’t he love his brief time working there as an assistant offensive line coach under Tom Coughlin? Maybe, yes, yes.
If that all didn’t matter to the Giants, then $60 million over seven years from the Panthers isn’t such a bad consolation prize. Rhule could have stayed at Baylor, so obviously the NFL was his preferred destination and he knew the time was right to make the move.
Rhule also is smart enough to know that the obvious move isn’t always the right move. When Rhule left Temple for scandal-plagued Baylor, he had another option. Oregon wanted him, too. Wasn’t the University of Nike the better job? It might have been the easier job, but Rhule apparently looked at the factors and saw that Baylor, giving him more years, offered the potential for success without the must-win-now mentality that goes with a place such as Oregon these days.
A shrewd move, it turned out, especially after he turned Baylor around with shocking speed, missing this season’s college football playoff by an OT period against Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game.
You can go back a little further in looking at Rhule’s decision-making. When he got it going against Temple, he didn’t jump at the first overture from the Power 5. He knew that a place such as Maryland was a tough job, given the competition within the Big Ten East. He knew that while Missouri was an interesting possibility, that program already had achieved success in the SEC East, so expectations were maybe a little higher than they should have been. Sure enough, the guy who took that job when Rhule probably could have had it is already gone.
All that’s fine. Can Rhule be a good pro coach? Did the Giants blow it? Yes, and yes. This guy was great at Temple and Baylor, better than good, because he had the proper emotional intelligence. He knew what he knew and didn’t know. He preached toughness and backed it up, but his players usually left swearing by him. Carolina had a good coach in Ron Rivera, but his time had run out. Rhule will be able to hit the ground running in Charlotte.
When Coughlin left the Giants in January 2016, I called Rhule to ask him about what Coughlin had been like to work for. Rhule told me about Tuesday meetings, how when it was time for him to present something, Rhule quickly found out he would get grilled by the Giants head coach if there was a small hole in the presentation.
“Just really exacting, really precise,” Rhule said. “It was something to measure myself on a Tuesday — all right, he didn’t have questions.”
Another basic lesson from Coughlin: Don’t wall yourself off once you have the top job.
“I had been in college football — I didn’t know what it would be like,” Rhule said. “I saw as a young coach, you need to spend time with guys one-on-one, whether your franchise [NFL] quarterback or your [college] freshman backup. If you’re saying something, you better do it one-on-one.”
One last thing Rhule said that day, an interesting comment to note on this day.