The Panthers are better this year. The offense is exciting, they have a franchise quarterback, and, well, four wins is better than two.
But the way that the Panthers lose is starting to get to coach Ron Rivera and his players. They have led in 12 of 13 games. They compete each week, and find a way to blow leads.
Rivera sent a message Monday that players’ jobs are on the line the next three weeks.
“We’ve got to grow up and get past a lot of things,” Rivera said Monday via the Charlotte Observer. “We’ve got to get past it is what it is because it’s not. . . . We are better than that. We have to start playing like it.”
Rivera was asked what players need to improve.
“They all do . . . whether it’s the guys need to improve as football players or we need to go out and find guys who can help us at those positions,” Rivera said. “The one thing is it’s got to change for the better. I’ve told the players, when it’s all said done, when we come back next year, we’re getting better. If we’re not getting better, we’re moving on. We’re not going to wait. We just can’t afford to.”
In a way, the Panthers’ struggles help Rivera out. Expectations won’t be artificially high for the 2012 Panthers like they were for the 2011 Bucs.
Rivera is going to get some of his defensive players back. The team only needs modest improvement there and from Cam Newton to sneak up on teams as a playoff contender next season.