On the eve of a reported sit-down meeting between Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and team owner Jerry Richardson, many fans are still left wondering as to why the Panthers are taking their time making this ever so critical decision.
It should be noted that Carolina has a good thing going. Black Monday came and went, leaving behind seven NFL head coaching vacancies, meaning the coaching search waters will be concentrated with competitive fury, perhaps leaving some teams settling for a less than stellar hire.
Granted, the Panthers have a franchise quarterback in Cam Newton and that fact easily would vault the Panthers’ job to the top of the list if it becomes available after tomorrow.
Despite the temptation among some Panthers fans, the team should actually stand firm and stay the course. Firing Rivera, a man every player in Carolina’s locker room ultimately respects, could send the Panthers spiraling downward if a less than stellar hire and offensive system were to disrupt Newton’s progression as an All-Pro quarterback.
Talent is not the issue in Carolina; the Panthers are a very talented football team and one could argue that injuries yet again derailed this squad in the middle of their season.
Of course, few point out the fact that Carolina’s schedule, especially early in the season, did them no favors. Four out of their first five opponents were either in the playoffs in 2011 or made the playoffs this season. Prior to the start of the season the Panthers’ schedule ranked tenth most difficult in the league based on their opponents combined 2011 records.
Now, no one wants to hear simple excuses like injuries and a difficult schedule, so the easy solution is to put it all on the head coach. Many, including myself, felt the same way following an inexcusable let-down overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in week 11.
However, Rivera managed to keep his players and most importantly his quarterback focused on performing the remaining Sunday’s at a high level, a monumental task given that many teams would have in fact folded under the building pressure after many frustrating losses.
Carolina’s impressive four game winning streak to end the season was just that, impressive. Both the offense and defense wrapped up the year in respectable fashion, leaving little room to oppose the direction the team was heading.
Now is not the time to make gigantic coaching decisions given the environment on the coaching search front and based on the fact that Rivera never allowed his players to give up.
Giving up would have been easy, instead the Panthers thrived in the face of adversity and that says a lot about their current head coach.
Robert Kester, Rant Sports Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1