Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Carolina Panthers’ Coach Rivera to Return?

Let’s cut to the chase…can Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera’s job be saved?   Should they miraculously (and miracles do happen) win the rest of their games this season, they’d finish 7-9.  Is that enough to save his job? 
Sadly, I fear, it is not.  Sometimes, it’s not about the number of wins and losses.  Sometimes, it’s about the internals…the team dynamics.
It seems to me that Coach Rivera has failed to provide his team, and his immensely-talented, young quarterback Cam Newton, the atmosphere for a winning attitude and the leadership they so desperately need. 
Some say Newton has more natural talent and ability than the super-skilled Robert Griffin III.  However Griffin, the Washington Redskins’ rookie QB, was recently named one of his team’s captains. To my knowledge, that honor has not been bestowed upon the second-year player, Newton, despite having arguably the most impressive rookie season the National Football League has ever seen.  But again, it is not always about the X’s and O’s.
Though we cannot blame the games lost this season on Newton, we’ve seen his performance progress; we’ve seen it regress.  Besides an injury-plagued offensive line, something in this picture is amiss.   It is leadership…or the lack thereof.
Newton has been heavily and publicly criticized by fans, the media, former players and his own teammates.   It’s time to grow up, and a leader would tell him so.  Someone like the team’s former defensive back Mike Minter or the late Panther favorite Sam Mills would be just the kind of guys to help Newton keep things in “perspective.”
But, the Panthers have no such leadership.  Steve Smith, whose sportsmanship attributes are at best questionable, is not the guy.  Apparently, neither is linebacker Jon Beason, who has been out most of the last two seasons with injuries.  And so, it falls, unsuccessfully, to Rivera and his coaching staff.
With one exception, in my memory, Rivera has allowed his young quarterback to sulk on the sidelines when things don’t go his way --without fear of being removed from the game.  Newton’s talent is enormous and Rivera might be crucified by the fans and media for plainly giving him the hook and owning up to it.  Or would he be? 
I believe as exciting and charismatic as Cam can be, we, the fans and media are growing weary of his pouting and press conferences with his eyes closed, etc.   Rivera has done young Mr. Newton no favors in permitting this type of behavior. 
I believe Cam needs a mentor…and a whole lot more…to help get him back on track.  Rivera has not been able to wrangle that issue.  (And, yes, the young star quarterback, his attitude and the attitude of the team are Rivera’s issues to deal with as head coach. The buck must stop with him, particularly since the team General Manager Marty Hurney already has been fired.)
It’s very unfortunate when someone loses a job.  The well-respected Rivera, who proved himself an able assistant, is in need of a miracle. Though it is possible,  I don’ t expect that to happen and can’t imagine the Panthers keeping him around.  I believe the only question regarding Rivera is whether he’ll be the first coach fired the first day after the regular season ends…or if that distinction will go to someone else?

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