Carolina Panthers Football: Welcome To The Cellar Ron Rivera

Lee FetnerContributor IJanuary 28, 2011

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera of the San Diego Chargers looks on against the Indianapolis Colts during their NFL Game at Qualcomm Stadium on November 23, 2008 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

To say new Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera has his work cut out for him is like saying Brett Favre is creepy or Al Davis is senile.

With Andrew Luck spurning the NFL draft for another year on campus, a tense labor situation, his team ravaged by injuries, and a cheapskate owner content with the NFL‘s lowest payroll, Rivera must be wondering what he's gotten himself into.

Given that Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden showed little interest even with the top pick in this year’s draft and more than enough cap room to work with, one could only assume that a career assistant with no head coaching experience would feel the least bit insecure.

To his credit, Rivera’s straightforward businesslike demeanor, which was on display at his introductory press conference, impressed the media and instilled hope in a demoralized fan-base.

He promised to restore Carolina’s identity as an aggressive attack oriented unit, and he made it quite clear he's not overly impressed with Jimmy Clausen or any other Carolina quarterback.

Since arriving in Charlotte, he has fired the majority of John Fox’s 2-14 staff, and those who weren’t, were interviewed for jobs they already had.

It appears Rivera is doing the right things, and he has certainly said the right things, but that hardly changes the fact that the Panthers are a complete mess.

Their starting quarterback (Jimmy Clausen) had the worst passer rating in the NFL, and their best player (Steve Smith) wants out of town. They have the youngest team in the league, and very few of them showed any promise.

Of course, if you’re a glass is half-full kind of person you might say Rivera is walking into a perfect situation.

If the Panthers continue on their current course and things go badly, Rivera could hardly be blamed for the failures of the front office. 

If they change their approach and things go well, Rivera will be credited with one of the great turnarounds in recent memory.

Truth be told, no one expects the Panthers to reach the playoffs in 2011, but few expect them to replicate their dismal 2010 performance. Given their current state, if Rivera leads them to an 8-8 or 7-9 mark, there will be little doubt who the Coach of the Year should be.

Rivera has the ability and he no doubt wants to win, but with an owner so opposed to spending money, and a front office unwilling to challenge the owner, one can only wonder if the situation will allow him to.