Ron Rivera's job is clearly at risk, but is there anything he can do to turn the Carolina Panthers around in 2012 and save his job?
The Panthers are 1-6 through Week 8—six games behind the undefeated Atlanta Falcons in the loss column. At this point, there's not much of a chance the Panthers will even sniff the playoffs. That said, it's a young team with talented players, and a positive second half to the season could be enough to save Rivera's hide.
It seems like he's got them going in the right direction, too, as the Panthers have lost the last four games by a cumulative total of 12 points. This team took the Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks and Chicago Bears to the brink—all three of which are playoff contenders.
Still, losses are losses, and a 1-6 record isn't good for job security.
So, what can Rivera do to save his job?
Let Running Backs Do Their Job
Rivera isn't the man calling plays—that would be Rob Chudzinzki—but he is the man in charge of this team.
He needs to make it known to Chudzinzki and the rest of the team, that running the ball with the team's highly-paid and highly-talented running backs is the first priority on offense.
Cam Newton is the team's leading rusher with 310 yards on 51 carries.
Seriously? That's the best the Panthers can do?
Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams have only carried the ball for a combined 113 times thus far in 2012, totaling 394 yards and two touchdowns. Mike Tolbert—the team's prized free-agent pickup this past offseason—has only toted the rock 17 times for 42 yards.
So far this season, the Panthers have run 216 passing plays and 185 rushing plays. Newton has been reeling under the pressure of being asked to carry the team, and if he's going to bounce back, he needs help.
It's time to start getting the most out of their investment.
Coach To Win
The Panthers are a young team, and learning to win can be a process. This team has lost five of its six games by six points or less—something you expect from a losing team.
But there's more to it than the natural process of learning how to win.
Coaches have a lot to do with the outcome, as they are the ones who determine what, if any, adjustments need to be made at halftime and during the game.
So far, Rivera and his coaching staff aren't getting the job done. If anything, Rivera's decisions and his staff's "adjustments" have only hurt the Panthers.
Consider this past game, when the Panthers had a chance to kick a 51-yard field goal right before halftime to go up by nine points. Rivera didn't take the chance, though, opting instead for a Newton heave to the end zone that ended up sailing over everyone's head—a truly uncatchable ball.
Never mind that Justin Medlock hasn't missed a field goal attempt so far in 2012...
Furthermore, the Panthers defense routinely plays soft coverage with the lead—a strategy that reeks of "playing not to lose" rather than taking it to your opponent until the bitter end.
Will Ron Rivera be the Panthers head coach in 2013?
Jay Cutler struggled all game long against the Panthers. He was getting pressured by the men up front, and his receivers were being harassed at the line. But in the final stanza, when the Panthers needed to shut him down the most, there suddenly wasn't any resistance.
Playing not to lose will lose games more often than not.
It's time for Rivera to start coaching to win.