By drafting QB Matt Corral, Carolina Panthers show patience with coach Matt Rhule

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Matt Corral's NFL draft profile (0:49)

Watch some of the best plays that make Ole Miss QB Matt Corral a player to watch in the NFL draft. (0:49)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It has been a good week for Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule, and not just because he might have gotten his quarterback of the future in a player who bears his first name, Matt Corral.

It's because all of a sudden it feels like Rhule has a future with the franchise that goes beyond the 2022 season.

It began on Wednesday, when owner David Tepper finally gave his third-year coach a vote of confidence despite consecutive five-win seasons. It continued on Thursday, when Rhule selected NC State left tackle Ikem "Ickey" Ekwonu with the sixth pick of the NFL draft while few thought he’d be there.

Then late Friday night, general manager Scott Fitterer traded into the third round to select Ole Miss quarterback Corral, who was projected as a first- or second-round pick.

“Kenny Chesney and this,’’ Rhule said after the Corral pick, reminding us that the country music star was performing at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday night. “What could be better in Charlotte?’’

The only thing missing was background music to Chesney’s 2018 hit “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.’’

If you haven’t heard it, here are a few lyrics that seem appropriate here:

Tell me something good that I don't know, 'cause this world's been kicking my behind. Life ain't been a friend of mine, lately I've been feeling kinda low. And she looked back over her shoulder, pointed at the sign hanging up on the wall. It said, ‘Everything's gonna be alright. Everything's gonna be alright.’ ’’

From the pandemic to injuries to star Christian McCaffrey to bad quarterback choices, Rhule’s behind has been kicked repeatedly since being hired in January 2020.

It’s too early to say everything’s gonna be all right with a Carolina organization that hasn’t had a winning season since 2017, but at least now it appears to be headed in the right direction.

Not reaching for a quarterback and securing the foundation of the offensive line with Ekwonu in the first round was smart. Choosing to trade a fourth-round pick (No. 137) and a 2023 third-round pick to the New England Patriots for the right to draft Corral at No. 94, instead of trading for disgruntled Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, also was smart.

Smart moves typically pay off.

The move up for Corral signaled the Panthers are willing to be patient and let him develop behind Sam Darnold, who remains the starter -- for now. It means that Tepper wasn’t blowing smoke midweek when he broke nearly two years of silence to say of his coach, “I believe in Matt.’’

That doesn’t mean Corral will be the savior the organization has been looking for since Cam Newton’s game began to deteriorate with injuries in 2018. Had the Browns agreed to pay a large piece of Mayfield’s 2022 salary ($18.58 million), the first pick of the 2018 draft could have been headed to Charlotte.

But because Tepper seems willing to let Rhule and Fitterer build the right way, there was no pressure to take on Baker’s salary and other baggage in an attempt to win now.

Corral, in many ways, seems like the perfect player to build around. He has overcome his own struggles, including a history with depression and a fight with the son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky in high school that could have derailed his career early.

He’s the tough type of kid whom Rhule embraced at Temple and Baylor when turning those programs around.

“Everyone in their life goes through things, and we do a really good job of trying to delineate between people who have an issue or problem that can’t be overcome, with people who are going through some thing in their lives,’’ Rhule said. “I don’t know about you, but when I was 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, I certainly went through things.

“I really respect people who have been through things and are powerful enough, and open enough, to talk about them, and Matt is definitely one of those guys.’’

In many ways, Corral is in an ideal situation to begin his NFL career. Expectations are low for a team that has gone 10-33 the past two seasons, and there is no pressure for him to start immediately.

There is also an opportunity to play early if Darnold struggles, as he has for most of his four NFL seasons, going 17-32 as a starter.

There is a reason Carolina spent the first part of the offseason trying to trade for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who ultimately went to Cleveland.

Corral is a long way from being the answer Watson could have been, but he at least is somebody the staff felt had the potential to be special, based on tape, that in some ways was better than the other four quarterbacks they vetted for the draft (Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell).

He is accurate, completing 67.9% of his passes in college. He has a quick release. He is versatile enough to beat you with his legs (rushing for 614 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2021) as well as his arm.

His teammates love him, and leadership could be his strongest asset.

“One of things that really stood out the most, beside the physical traits, was the competitiveness and the toughness of him,’’ Fitterer said. “I mean, the guy took a pounding, but he kept getting up, kept getting up.’’

If it works out, this will be good for both Matts. Maybe they’ll even inspire a Chesney song one day.