It’s always the same story. The Carolina Panthers suffered yet another heartbreaking loss in the final seconds after yet another fourth quarter collapse, with the offense settling for field goals and the defense crumbling under the pressure. Though the players are ultimately to blame for allowing such events to transpire, the coach must take responsibility as well. Ron Rivera has repeatedly struggled to manage games during his tenure, but there is a greater issue at stake here. Rivera’s main job is to create a team and bring together a group of talented individuals who can win. In that respect, he has failed miserably.
The head coach’s first job is always to recruit players, a job that is associated more with college coaches. But even at the NFL level, it is still the coach’s responsibility to recognize talent and bring that talent into the fold. College coaches have an easier time with this through the recruitment process, but NFL coaches can still get young talent through the draft, something that Rivera has been hit or miss at during his career.
In his first draft, Rivera has the No. 1 overall pick, where he selected Cam Newton out of Auburn. That pick has certainly panned out, but the rest of that draft class floundered. None of them filled the Panthers’ desperate needs at defensive tackle or receiver, and only one, Sione Fua, is still on the team, despite being cut after the preseason.
In his second draft, Rivera scored on the No. 9 overall pick with Luke Kuechly, Amini Silatolu in the second round, and also selected emerging cornerback Josh Norman in the fourth round. Those three picks have done well, but everyone else has not done too much. While Rivera’s 2012 draft was somewhat successful, he failed to address the Panthers’ pressing needs at defensive tackle and receiver, which cost the Panthers mightily early in the season last year.
Then, in this year’s draft, he hit home runs with Star Lutulelei of Utah and Kawann Short of Purdue, but he failed to address the teams needs with his other three picks. Selecting Edmund Kugbila was an alright pick to bolster the Panthers’ thin offensive line, but there was no excuse for him to bring A.J. Klein into an already crowded linebacking corps when Steve Smith has been begging for a counterpart for years.
Overall, Rivera’s drafting has been lackluster. He has taken to habit of only selecting players he likes, and while some of them have developed into great players, his drafting process has failed to build a winning team. I can understand drafting talent over need, but the Panthers have had holes at defensive tackle and wide receiver since Kris Jenkins and Keyshawn Johnson left, and Rivera has left those holes to fester and poison the team. For that reason, if not for many others, Rivera should be fired.