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Monday, September 25, 2017

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Eyes On NFL: The Carolina Panthers Need A New Head Coach

By @AmeenKnows

The Panthers have been in existence for 23 years. They first started play in 1995. In those 23 years, we have had four head coaches. None have been able to achieve the feat of having back to back winning seasons. Why is this important? Because it defines a mode of inconsistency and stagnation that has left this franchise running in place for the entirety of its existence. Which brings us to the here and now.

Ron Rivera has been head coach of the Carolina Panthers since 2011 with a record of 50-35-1. He is a 2x Coach of the Year Winner, won the NFC South Division 3x and has made a Super Bowl apperance in 2015. Impressive? On paper, yes. Let's analyze. Of those 7 years, Rivera has only 2 winning seasons. His Coach of the Year seasons are his only winning seasons and the only seasons in which he has reached 8 wins or more (12-4 in 2013, 15-1 in 2015.) With 2017 still pending, he has a record of 19-29-1 with his winning seasons unincluded. Sandwiched between two winning seasons is a 7-8-1 season that was good enough in a horrible NFC South to win the division. He's 3-3 in the playoffs. In all 3 losses, he was severely outcoached by Jim Harbaugh, Pete Carroll and Gary Kubiak.
Now let's talk philosophy. Rivera comes from the Mike Ditka coaching tree and has said many of times that Ditka has been one of his biggest influences as a head coach. That being said, his mentor has a direct correlation to the Panthers identity as a team. Ground and pound and play hard defense right? The year he became head coach, Cam Newton was selected first overall in the NFL Draft. In his first season, the offense took off under the rookie sensation, going from being ranked 32nd to 7th in one year! 

In 2012, the team finished in the top 15 once again. Both offenses were led by Rob Chudzinski. In the 2013 offseason, Chud took the Cleveland Browns head coaching gig (was fired after one season and works for the Colts now). Quarterbacks coach Mike Shula was called up to replace Chud as the Offensive Coordinator. That year the team finished with a 12-4 record with the 2nd ranked defense in the League. The offense? They fell off a Cliff, going from 12th to 26th. In 2014, the offense finished 16th with another top 10 defense. In 2015 with the league MVP calling the shots, they were still only good enough for 11th but did lead the league in scoring. In the Super Bowl, they failed to make any second half offensive adjustments and did not score the rest of the game. In 2016, the offense finished 19th with the defense falling below the top 10 for the first time since drafting Luke Kuechly. One of the reasons why is because of Rivera's inability to see that his offensive coordinator, who is the play caller, is hurting his team.

Which brings me to another point. I really question how much Rivera cares about his Quarterback who has become the scapegoat for everything that ails the Panthers. Cam Newton has regularly taken a beating from fans and media for not developing into a Brady-esque pocket passer. What is unbeknownst or simply ignored by most is that Rivera has essentially stunted Newton's growth by refusing to find him better coaching to surround him with. When your offense regularly finishes outside the top 15 that calls for changes to be made. Rivera has also criticized his Quarterback to the media, telling them he looked shook last season and even benched him for a series for not wearing a tie on the Seattle trip. Another reason I question him is how he handles Cam's health. A clearly concussed Newton was allowed back into the game against Denver in 2016 after taking multiple direct hits to the head and led them to what would have been the game winning field goal had Graham Gano not missed. 

Later in the season when Newton suffered a slightly torn rotator cuff in Week 13 against San Diego, he allowed Newton to finish playing through the rest of the season. This begs me to question why would Rivera, who shut down Kuechly with a concussion for the rest of the year, allow his QB to aggravate an injury in his throwing shoulder in the final three games with nothing to play for? That's gross negligence on his behalf. Through 3 games this year, Cam Newton still does not look even 60% healthy or confident in that shoulder yet Rivera won't save him from himself and sit him.
I understand that I can't blame Rivera for the front office not surrounding the franchise QB with better pieces however I refuse to support the decision to hold on to an incompetent Offensive Coordinator and not protect said QB. The Super Bowl hangover is over. When your own Linebacker shows he cares more than your head coach on the sideline, you have a problem. It's time to move on.



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