CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There were no chicken wing giveaways at d.d. Peckers Wing Shack on Tuesday.
Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule wasn’t fired after losing to the New York Giants on Sunday.
But restaurant owner Justin Holland gladly would have fulfilled his social media offer of free wings (that could have cost him well over $10,000) if Rhule had been fired by 5 p.m. on Monday.
@panthers If Matt Rhule is fired by 5pm tomorrow, free wings on Tuesday. Limit 10 per customer, use the code FireRhule— d.d. Peckers (@ddPeckers_CLT) September 18, 2022
That’s an example of how bad it’s gotten for the Panthers after a 0-2 start that extended their losing streak to nine straight, the longest in the NFL and one shy of the second-longest run in team history, heading into 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, even though there is no indication from owner David Tepper a change is imminent.
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 non-winning seasons.
He arrived six seasons removed from New Orleans radio personality Buddy Dilberto first putting a brown paper bag over his head with the word “Aints’’ scribbled across the front during their 1-15 1980 season.
Saints fans soon followed suit, and the fad spread to other markets and other sports with perennial losers.
“They were so dang 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 long-time supporters such as the 50-year-old Holland, who was overwhelmed by the response to his promotion.
They are worried Carolina is turning into a laughingstock.
“I’m trying to support them," Holland said. "I hang my flag out every Sunday, but the losing is getting 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 past 10 seasons to go a full year without a home win. Of 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 but Dallas and Cleveland have had at least four different coaches during 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, appear on their way to becoming a perennial loser.
Rhule, in the third year of a seven-year, $62 million contract, disagrees.
“Any thought of ‘There’s a loser’s mentality in this building’ is a falsehood,’’ he said. “Because if you’re in this building you want to win.’’
Panthers players who have been with other perennial losers don’t sense Carolina has reached the point to be listed with those other teams. Former New York Jets wide receiver Robbie Anderson said Rhule wasn’t the reason for the skid.
“I’m playing this game for Coach Rhule,’’ said Anderson, who was on the Temple team Rhule turned around in its third season. “He’s getting a lot of blame. It’s not him. For me, knowing what we know as a team, he’s telling us what we need to do.’’
Panthers players and coaches believe they are close to turning things around and getting fans onboard.
“Really, it doesn’t bother me. I’ve dealt with boos in the past,’’ quarterback Baker Mayfield said. “We’d love to have our fan base helping us out with the energy. When it comes down to it, if we execute, they’re going to be loud for us.’’
Although Rhule hasn’t gotten the Panthers to break their losing streak, both losses this season were close games, coming on fourth-quarter field goals of 58 and 56 yards, the first time that has happened in consecutive weeks in NFL history.
“I just want to make sure I say that we’re close [to winning],’’ Rhule said Sunday. “I believe that with all my heart.’’
Rhule explained on Wednesday he said “close’’ because “as a head coach you’re responsible for the guys and their mindset and psyche,’’ not as an excuse.
“Make no mistake, when we walk in here on Monday there is no, like, ‘Hey, it’s OK guys,’ ’’ Rhule added. “There’s a bunch of angry people here that are dying to win. ... It’s a tough place to be. It’s a frustrating place to be.
“But at the same time, we’re, ‘Here we are.’ You’ve got to fight your way out of it.’’
Mora understands, but he would advise Rhule not to use the word “close’’ publicly. His 49ers speech summed up what close means to him.
“We’re close, and close don’t mean s---" he said. “And you can put that on TV for me.’’
Cornerback Donte Jackson said players have to be smart and look past the “narratives’’ of fans.
“Nothing they say or do is going to affect us in here,’’ he said.
Safety Juston Burris has played for the Jets and Browns, and so far, he doesn’t feel the losing culture he experienced with those teams.
“With maturity, you learn to block out the outside noise,’’ he said. “Once we start winning again, those people will come back.’’
“People like to find somebody to blame for things,’’ he said. “[Rhule’s] at the top of the chart. That’s just what comes with his position and job. Knowing what we know, he’s doing what he needs to do.
“... From our perspective, we’re right there.’’
Holland hopes so. He wants to believe the winning will return like it was in 2015 when the Panthers had an NFL-best 15-1 regular-season record and reached the Super Bowl.
But Sunday he was so frustrated that his emotions spilled into Twitter and Facebook.
“To me, it looked like they needed a change, so I put my two cents in,’’ 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 Sunday, equaling the Panthers' 2019-20 streak of 10 straight losses, five short of the 15 straight to end the 2001 season.
“I usually get four likes,’’ Holland said. “So trust me, I’m not alone.’’