The Carolina Panthers had a very disappointing start to the 2013 NFL season, with two very tough and close losses in the first two weeks. Fans and sports analysts expected much more than what the Panthers were showing. Heading into Week 3, many people were claiming that game to be a “do or die” situation for the Panthers’ season and for head coach Ron Rivera.
Rivera began his first season as head coach with the Panthers in 2011. The Panthers finished the previous season with the worst record in the NFL. Rivera used this to his advantage in the 2011 draft to select quarterback Cam Newton first overall. This was a huge bonus for the Panthers, considering their biggest issue was at the quarterback position. The Panthers’ organization also brought in other offensive weapons, such as star veterans Jeremy Shockey and Greg Olson for the tight end position. The tight end position was another spot the Panthers needed assistance in. Rivera was beginning to build the team from the ground up. Even with Newton’s record breaking season, the Panthers still finished with a terrible 6-10 record. However, since it was the Panthers’ first season with a new head coach and new franchise quarterback, they weren’t expected to be too successful.
In the 2012 NFL draft, the Panthers selected rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly in the first round. He, just like Newton in the year prior, had a fantastic record breaking season. Rivera was expected to have a much better season this time with a much better record. With one year already under his belt and a healthy roster of players, Rivera was expected to make the playoffs. However, once again, his Panthers fell short. Granted, they did have a slight overall improvement in their record, ending the season 7-9. The biggest issue was how many games the Panthers were leading in the fourth quarter and lost in the last couple of minutes in the game. Seven of those nine losses were by a touchdown or less. The Panthers easily could have swept the Atlanta Falcons, just like they did the New Orleans Saints. Despite the great effort by the Panthers, and ending the season with a four game win streak, they missed the playoffs once again.
It is very difficult to take the worst team in the NFL and build them into a playoff contender in only two seasons. The problem is that it has been done before, and was expected of Rivera and the Panthers. The 2013-14 season is suppose to be a different story for the Panthers. However, once again, the Panthers started off playing strong , but lost their first two games after holding a lead late in the fourth quarter. The organization already made several changes to the coaching staff, yet it didn’t seem to make a difference. Heading into Week 3, Rivera was on the hot seat. Lucky for him, the Panthers came out firing on both sides of the ball and destroyed the New York Giants 38-0, adding a franchise record for biggest win margin ever. This was a must-win game for the Panthers players and coaching staff. They now enter into their bye week with a lot to discuss and evaluate. Rivera is not out of the hot seat by any means, but he is safe for now. Their is a long season ahead for the Panthers, especially with one of the toughest schedules in the league. If the Panthers don’t make it into the playoffs, or at the very least have a winning season, Rivera may very well be looking for a new team to coach come this offseason.