Ron Rivera: 4 Reasons Why He Should Remain the Carolina Panthers' Head Coach
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The Carolina Panthers are making changes to their staff after a dismal start to the season.
In an anticipated move, special teams coach Brian Murphy became the latest casualty of the Carolina firings.
A 2-7 start has put head coach Ron Rivera on the hot seat. There are not many people left to shoulder the blame in Carolina at this point, but all the blame should not be put on Rivera.
The Panthers coach has tried several times to save the sinking ship that is the Carolina Panthers without any success. Carolina's next three opponents, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Philadelphia, have all been going through struggles of their own lately. These three upcoming games give Carolina a shot to push their record to a respectable 5-7 going into the final four games of the season.
Winning these games might just be the saving grace that Rivera needs right now.
The majority of games the Panthers have lost this season have been due to fourth-quarter implosions. The Panthers have caused their fans grief by blowing many third-quarter leads.
Panthers fans around the country are calling for Rivera to be fired, despite the Panthers only being blown out in one game. Their hope is that someone else can come in and end the season on a high note.
Rivera is the man in Carolina, however, and should stay there the rest of the season.
Here are four reasons that Rivera should remain the head coach in Carolina.
Injuries Have Plagued the Panthers This Season
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The Carolina Panthers injury report all season has consisted of players that the team relies upon for both leadership and strong play. Players like Jon Beason, Steve Smith and Jonathan Stewart have all spent time on the injury list so far this year.
In addition to Beason, a linebacker, the Carolina defensive line has been constantly plagued with injuries. There have been games in Carolina this season where players who would normally be listed third on the depth chart have started due to injuries.
Despite all the injuries, Rivera has done a respectable job of leading the Panthers defense.
Offensive injuries have caused the Panthers' running game to disappear.
Coming into the season, expectations were for Jonathan Stewart to spearhead the running game. An ankle injury has limited Stewart's time and production so far this season. Injuries to Jordan Gross and the offensive line have also hurt any production the run game might have produced.
With all of the team's injuries, it's surprising that Rivera has been able to keep the Panthers close in as many games as he has this year.
The Defense Has Been Strong
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The Carolina defense has become a patchwork this season. That has not stopped Rivera from proving that he truly is a defensive genius.
Heralded as a great defensive coordinator prior to taking over in Carolina, Rivera has continued to prove that he is one of the league's brightest defensive minds this season.
The work Rivera has been able to do with the Panthers' lack of star power is astounding. Carolina is not topping the leaderboards of any defensive statistics these days, but they are giving offenses fits.
The defense has held opponents to less than 20 points in five games this season.
They have also kept games close enough to allow the offense to have an opportunity to win the game in the fourth quarter, something they have been unable to do.
When looking at the Panthers' struggles this season, the majority of them have come on the offensive side of the ball. Head coaches are supposed to pay attention to both sides of the ball, however, Rivera tends to focus his energy on the defensive side.
Rivera's ability to turn a group of average players into an above average defense is one key reason why the Panthers should hold onto him.
Cam Newton Is Struggling
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The pride and joy of the Carolina Panthers is in a sophomore slump and there is nothing Ron Rivera can do about it.
Newton has struggled all season to find his rhythm and establish himself as the quarterback he was last season. Part of Newton's struggles can be credited to a changing offensive system and to injuries on the offensive line.
No matter how you look at Newton's struggles, there should be no blame placed on Rivera.
Rivera has done his part in trying to help the young quarterback through his slump and is still trying to help Newton out. His body language on the field and during press conferences has shown the world that he is mentally frustrated and that his psyche is very fragile. For Rivera to yank Newton now would mean shattering any semblance of the young quarterback's confidence that remains.
Cam Newton is a player who is used to winning and being the center of good attention, and this season that is not the case. With the running game non-existent, the Panthers quarterback needs to make the right decisions and step up his game.
Ron Rivera has made the right choice in keeping Newton in. He is looking to the future and trying to protect Newton's psyche for the rest of his career.
However, that decision may lead to his downfall.
As a coach, Rivera has done everything he can to help Newton get back on track. In Carolina, as Newton goes, so do the Panthers.
The Special Teams Have Been Terrible
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The Denver Broncos took advantage of a weak Carolina special teams unit last weekend and it ended up being the difference in the game. While the Broncos offense played well, the Panther defense kept Manning and Co. in check, limiting them to 20 points.
Carolina's special teams unit, on the other hand, gave up 16 points.
The Panthers quickly made a change after Sunday's special teams debacle, firing special teams coordinator Ben Murphy. Murphy, who lasted in Carolina for only a short period of time, has been replaced by Richard Rodgers, the former special teams assistant.
Rivera himself addressed the Panthers' special teams' woes in an article on ESPN, saying that the team needs to find one special player who can make a difference on the punt team:
We need that one gunner, that special guy, and that's what we're trying to find. Then you can turn your punter loose and say hey, kick as high as you want and as far as you want because we have a guy who is going to get there (to cover). We don't have that right now, to be very frank. ... We have to find that one guy who makes a difference.
With a rookie punter on the roster it is small differences like this one that can have a big effect as the season progresses.
It will be important to see how the special teams change over the next few weeks in Carolina. But one thing is certain, if the Panthers want to win, they must improve their special teams.