When Ron Rivera was successfully re-interviewing for his job last weekend, one of the things he doubtless was selling was the promise of continuity after winning five of his last six, and the benefit for quarterback Cam Newton.
Now that Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski is the head coach in Cleveland, Rivera’s back to square one.
If, as has been reported, Norv Turner ends up with Chudzinski, Rivera’s ostensible top candidate will be off the board. Rivera was Turner’s defensive coordinator in San Diego before getting the Panthers job.
Norv’s son Scott has been an offensive assistant in Charlotte the last two years, and his presence never seemed completely coincidental. Norv in Charlotte would have been a dream fit for Newton and whatever version of the Panthers backfield remains, along with Steve Smith and Greg Olsen.
But if Rivera couldn’t land his old boss, he’s in a bit of a pinch, as quarterbacks coach Mike Shula is the only member of his offensive staff with coordinator experience (and that wasn’t exactly distinguished in Tampa Bay), and he’s already replacing his wide receivers coach and running backs coach in a less-than-secure environment.
So to recap, a new general manager (Dave Gettleman) was given a head coach he had no voice in hiring, and now that coach has to replace half a staff and install a new system anyway.
What could possibly go wrong?
The background on the shuffle makes it more frustrating for the Panthers.
When former G.M. Marty Hurney hired Rivera, he had a list of offensive coordinator candidates in mind along with a list of head coaches. It’s believed that Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden was atop Hurney’s list, but Rivera insisted on Chudzinski instead. Hurney, in a move that may have effectively doomed him, relented and let his new coach pick his own guy.
Chudzinski is widely known as a smart guy, and his Ohio roots will give him a passion for the Browns job they need. But more than one of his former co-workers in Charlotte thought he was coaching to land a head coaching job, rather than using the tools he was given. Hence drawing up all the creative read-option plays, which were cute for a moment, while ignoring the fact he had been given running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
The end result is Rivera’s still standing, but scrambling for an answer, and the Panthers look like even more of a disjointed mess this morning than they already did.