The Carolina Panthers fired coach Ron Rivera on Tuesday after nearly a nine-year tenure. After starting the season 0-2 and losing Cam Newton to injury, the Panthers reeled off four straight wins with undrafted second-year quarterback Kyle Allen and Rivera was in the discussion for NFL Coach of the Year. However, things have spiraled quickly for the Panthers, losing five of their last six and wondering where and what the future holds for a fairly talented roster.
Much like the Philadelphia Eagles, the Panthers have fallen far from the team that went 15-1 and played Denver in the Super Bowl in 2015. But unlike the Eagles, Carolina lost that game and not winning that game possibly cost Rivera an extra grace period to try to turn things around.
Rivera’s teams also haven’t been as good as many perceive them to be. In his nine-year stint, the Panthers had a winning record only three times. Yes, his defenses have been pretty darn good, but Newton’s health and play has been inconsistent for years now and only just recently have they given Newton the help he needs around him as far as weapons not named Greg Olsen.
Speaking of defense, this has been the only year that side of the ball has really struggled. When defense is your forte and the offense is clicking, it falls on the head coach. If you are an offensive-minded coach, your offense has to come up with answers far more times than not. When you’re a defensive-minded coach, your defense has to be dominant and scare people, and this season Rivera’s hasn’t.
In May 2018, all 32 owners approved the sale of the Panthers from Jerry Richardson to David Tepper. Richardson was fined for committing multiple acts of workplace misconduct toward female employees, four of whom received compensation. Tepper owned the team for 1 ½ years, has no ties to Rivera and doesn’t owe him anything. Turnover with a new owner or general manager is very common in the NFL and the first people to usually go are the coaches. So even winning the Super Bowl, wouldn’t have guaranteed Rivera’s safety.
The firing of Rivera could have waited until the season ended but was necessary. His message after nine years has to be getting stale and with all the young, offensive-minded coaches being hired around the league, Carolina could be looking to go young everywhere. What does that mean? Well it’s no secret the Panthers have already started flirting with the possibility of letting Newton walk after this season, which should be the move they make.
The new NFL model for winning is get a young, cheap quarterback and instead of paying him upwards of $30 million, buy an offensive line and a defensive front seven with that money then draft fast wide receivers and running backs who can run as well as catch. The formula is tried and true, but can a general manager put the talent together and can you find the right coach?
Outside of offensive line, the Panthers have accumulated the right talent; Rivera just hasn’t proven to be the right guy. His defensive mind will be snagged up as a defensive coordinator in no time, but his head coaching days have come to a halt — for now.