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Matt Rhule talks decision to be head coach of Panthers, not Giants

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule looks on during

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule looks on during the second quarter against the Vikings at Bank of America Stadium on Sunday in Charlotte, N.C. Credit: Getty Images/Grant Halverson

Matt Rhule showed exactly why he was considered such a strong candidate for the Giants’ head coaching job when it was last available.

He spoke about what a special place it was for him to work at when he was a low-level assistant on the staff in 2012 and noted the difficulty of the decision the following year to leave and take the head coaching job at Temple. He name-dropped some organizational insiders such as senior vice president of medical services Ronnie Barnes, reminisced fondly about Eli Manning’s comebacks and genuflected at the statue of Tom Coughlin. He practically read off names from the team’s Ring of Honor when talking about the players he rooted for when he was a kid in the Bronx. Simms. Bavaro. McConkey.

But perhaps the most telling thing he said regarding his pedigree for the job was this:

"I grew up dreaming of being Bill Parcells."

For a few days in January 2020, the Giants seemed to have those same dreams for him.

It never happened, though. He never even made it to New Jersey to interview for the job that eventually went to Joe Judge, who had met with the Giants the day before Rhule told them he was out.

On Thursday, a few days before he finally will make that trip to the Meadowlands – only as head coach of the visiting Panthers and not as the potential next great coach in Giants franchise history – Rhule for the first time publicly tried to explain what happened during that time period that led him to Carolina.

"I had a chance to have a conversation with [the Giants] and I was unbelievably flattered," Rhule said on a conference call. "The truth is it never really got to that point [of a job offer]. I got offered the job in Carolina and took it. It just seemed like the right thing for us at the time."

Rhule, then the head coach at Baylor, returned home from a family vacation to Cancun and was about to begin interviewing for NFL job openings. In his driveway upon his return he found new Panthers owner David Tepper who had come to intercept the hot candidate with a seven-year, $60 million contract.

That was too much green for Big Blue to compete with.

"To be perfectly honest, I can’t say that I chose anybody over anyone," Rhule said. "With David Tepper, I thought he trusted me and believed that I could do it, so we pulled that trigger. I wouldn’t characterize it for me as picking one against another because they offered me the job and I took it pretty shortly thereafter."

Rhule said didn’t try to play the Panthers against the Giants, though he did not deny that the Panthers’ offer was presented to the Giants to match … or maybe even come close.

"My agent does a good job," Rhule said. "He’s always trying to protect me and all those things. It’s just one of those deals where it never got to that point. He probably had conversations with them, but it just wasn’t there. So, we took this one."

The Giants had just been blown away by Judge in his interview and were fine with letting Rhule go without a counteroffer. They remain comfortable with that decision, even though Judge’s 7-15 record has been a disappointment.

Rhule has gone 8-14.

It’s impossible to say whether the Giants would have been better served over the past 21 months with Rhule as their head coach rather than Judge. In an alternate universe he would have gotten the Giants gig and Judge would have moved on to coach at his alma mater, Mississippi State, which was his next stop on the interview circuit.

"I just came here to have a conversation, that’s all it was," Judge said of his interview with the Giants.

Rhule will likely spend the rest of his career known in these parts as the guy who spurned the Giants for the money rather than come to an organization that he said he "absolutely loved, ab-so-lute-ly loved" working at previously, the team he grew up rooting for, and the position he always wanted.

He’ll also be known as the guy whose actions led to the Giants hiring Judge, for better or worse, however his legacy pans out.

But on Sunday, he’ll just be the head coach of the Panthers. And the Giants? Unlike in 2020 they’ll be trying to beat him, not meet him.

New York Sports