The Panthers had a chance late against the Raiders, but it ended when a fourth-and-1 run by Not Christian McCaffrey was stuffed for no gain.
But rookie head coach Matt Rhule stopped the buck on his desk, rather than passing the decision to not involve his star player onto rookie offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
Little-used fullback Alex Armah got the ball instead, a curious decision by any standard (though Armah converted a third-and-1 earlier in the game).
“That’s something I have to think about walking away from this,” Rhule said, via Joe Person of TheAthletic.com. “When you write up who to blame for that, the only person you can blame is the head coach.”
Not throwing his 30-year-old coordinator (or Armah) under the bus was noble, though it’s hard to justify not involving the guy they gave a $16 million a year contract extension to this offseason.
For his part, McCaffrey said it “doesn’t matter if I was surprised or not,” defending Armah. Armah has 17 career carries for 27 yards.
While the decision may have cost them a chance to win a game, eating it is still a smart move by Rhule from a leadership perspective. They’re building for the future, so creating trust and accountability will serve them better in years to come than any one game during a rebuilding season.