by Steve Jones
I am coldhearted when it comes to business decisions. If someone is not performing up to my high standards, then I'll probably fire them. As the saying goes, "Nothing personal, but business is business." Accountability in sports is especially important to me because I take my teams' performances personally. When my guys do poorly, I'm in a bad mood for days. That's why my position on Carolina Panthers Coach Ron Rivera baffles me. I think the Panthers should keep him on for one more year and see what happens.
What?! Not fire Ron Rivera?? Hasn't he been an awful coach?!
I know, I know. But hear me out.
I thought he needed to go after the Tampa Bay loss on Nov. 18. Up to that point the Panthers had two wins and eight losses. The coaching was abysmal in nearly every aspect: clock management, play calling and execution.
Leads continually slipped away due to being conservative. Why Rivera called a time-out when an opponent had a fourth down and the clock was running out I will never know. A lack of guidance with Cam Newton led to repeated close losses, and the star player was often left alone to sulk on the bench.
Since then the Panthers have beaten Philly on the road, lost a bizarre post-murder/suicide game on the road to Kansas City, stunned NFC leader Atlanta and whupped San Diego on the West Coast. The Panthers' offense has become a well-oiled machine, and the defense is winning the third-down battle. Even the woeful special teams have become almost acceptable, if still a work in progress.
Clock management is still an issue, but the play calling and execution have been superb. The sulking Newton has been surrounded on the bench with QB coach Mike Shula, backup QB Derek Anderson and others for group discussions, and the results are apparent. Newton is playing his best football since coming to our fair city.
Like Newton, Rivera is learning on the job. His coaching earlier this year was amateurish at best, and the team paid the price. Yet the ship has been righted and Rivera has drastically cut down on coaching errors. He has simplified the game for himself, his coaching staff, Newton, and the entire team, and it is working.
Starting over with a new coach would set the Panthers back two years. While it goes against my nature, I recommend another year for Coach Ron Rivera.