Panthers keep finding scapegoats, bigger problems remain


Going into his third year with the Panthers, Ron Rivera has a 13-19 record.

His record of offering up those who might not necessarily be the problem is far more impressive.

In addition to the previously reported firing of running backs coach John Settle, the Panthers announced today that they also fired wide receivers coach Fred Graves and linebackers coach Warren Belin.

This is after Rivera fired his defensive backs coach (Ron Meeks) after his first season, his special teams coach (Brian Murphy) midseason this year, and stood by while the guy who hired him (former general manager Marty Hurney) was fired.

That’s five coaches, all of whom he picked. Or, one fewer than his home wins the last two seasons.

Meanwhile, it appears that Teflon Ron and both his coordinators, Rob Chudzinski and Sean McDermott will return. Of the three of them, McDermott has the best recent resume.

While Rivera’s twin 2-8 starts and 2-12 record in games decided by a touchdown make it hard to make a strong argument for him, owner Jerry Richardson gave him a third year after meeting with him last weekend. Part of the reason you hear behind the scenes is that Richardson’s personal relationship with Rivera was strong enough to make the owner feel it was fair to give him a chance after winning five of his last six. And most of the defenses of Rivera begin with “He’s a great guy, . . . ”

But taking shots at a decent man or firing random assistants isn’t going to fix the basic problem with the Panthers, which remains the same as it was this morning, or Saturday before Rivera got a reprieve.

The Panthers have, and have had, an allocation of resources problem. That goes back to Richardson spending none of the money prior to the lockout, and all of it immediately afterward. That includes Hurney signing all the running backs, but then hiring a coaching staff that refused to use the strongest part of the roster to its fullest extent. That goes back to a pre-lockout purge that left the Panthers with a pro personnel staff of one man, since Hurney was willing to take on more jobs than he should have been asked to do.

Now, they’re trying to improve from 7-9 with a roster that’s going to have to be subtracted from ($16 million over the 2013 salary cap) before it’s added to.

And now, in the absence of leadership from a general manager who won’t get to decide who he gets to work with, the Panthers get a ritual sacrifice of a group of men who either don’t matter all that much or didn’t offend. Graves was Steve Smith’s position coach in college, and Smith’s voice has carried weight in the past. Belin and Settle were young, but coached groups which played acceptably when deployed properly. And while former Panthers running backs coach Jim Skipper is available (and happened to coach DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart when they each topped 1,100 yards the same season), Rivera doesn’t seem to be interested in bringing him back.

To be honest, it’s hard to see what Rivera’s plan is, other than stay employed.

But the deeper problem in Charlotte is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a plan at all.

36 responses to “Panthers keep finding scapegoats, bigger problems remain

  1. What scares me is you tend to be right DG….
    I hope Rivera does well, mainly because I’m a Panthers fan. But this team has too many weapons to not have a double digit Win total next year.

  2. I have no dog in the fight and no opinion on Rivera, but this piece seems unduly harsh to this outsider. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the writer was related to one of the fired assistants.

  3. Firing all of these coaches Rivera picked tells us Rivera can’t pick assistant coaches. That’s something a head coach has got to be able to do effectively.

    Got a feeling Rivera’s day is coming sooner than later.

  4. Things are never as good as they seem and things are never as bad as they seem. Rivera needs some assistants with NFL head coaching experience. His staff was filled with college coaches and game day decisions showed it. He’s got one more year in my eyes before I start casting stones. The one thing you can say for the guy is his team ever quit on him, even with a combined 36 men on the IR over the last two seasons.

  5. You fail to realize this man took over the worst team in the NFL… a team that was starting Jimmy Clausen as their starting QB… a team that rebuilt from scratch when he came here… a team that was constructed poorly by an awful GM who was finally canned this year.

    All things considered I think he has done a reasonable job given the hand he was dealt.

  6. It’s just delaying the inevitable which is a lot of tiring spinning interviewing more coaches, getting them up and running, instead of looking at game film, and the draft.

  7. People are being ridiculous trying to judge him on two years with a QB that everyone new was going to have a longer adjustment period than most…if he adjusts at all.

  8. kissmyconverse says:
    Jan 8, 2013 8:44 PM

    “But this team has too many weapons to not have a double digit Win total next year.”

    What weapons are those? Cam Newton’s legs and arm yes, maybe Steve Smith’s aging skills at WR and…..???? No running game, no #2 WR (LaFell, maaaaybe), Greg Olsen is a weapon now?

    This team needs to draft a whole lot better, like a lot of other teams, and that starts with talent evaluation. They need a GM in place soon.

  9. When a team hires an assistant coach that don’t know how to win Super Bowls to be head coach what else would anybody expect.

  10. I think he wants to bring in guys with experience, maybe even a former HC who’s looking to keep some sort of employment…after all, one of his biggest admitted mistakes this year was not having enough big time coaching experience on the draft. Hell, many of the decisions that have been derided the past two seasons could have probably been avoided (on-field) if there were a former HC roaming with Rivera.

    Also, why is it so hard to think that maybe they want the new GM to evaluate for a year and really scrape from top to bottom? See if this staff is the one for the future or if the future lies with someone else? I’d rather that than firing a guy just cause it’s “change for the sake of change”; Hurney is hardly a sacrificial lamb, he was living on borrowed time. Now Rivera’s the one with the short leash, but it’s certainly not the open and shut case that he should be dumped/he’s scapegoating that’s being presented

  11. All Coach Ron really needs is a real assistant coach to help him with his game planning and the clock management stuff….special teams was horrendous the past 2 years but the LBs and RBs were straight….O line coach should have been canned though

    9-7 next year..realistically

  12. Well, the alternative is that Rivera gets fired. In which case all the assistants lose their jobs anyway. This way at least some of them survive the purge. I can’t really figure what you’re getting at.

  13. Ron Rivera is not a good coach. But Panthers fans also can’t overlook Cam Newton, whose despicable attitude is threatening to infect the entire organization. His accuracy is also atrocious and he did steal a laptop at the University of Florida

  14. Wide receivers and linebackers were two areas that improved this year from last – and those coaches are fired?

  15. Marty Hurney was the problem, not Rivera. Rivera & co did the best they could with the hand they were dealt.

  16. Just my opinion here, as I don’t have facts or sources to point to to affirm my opinion, but I couldn’t disagree more. Here’s why:

    1. John Settle RB coach was a cheap option because the staff figured Williams and Stew were veteran pros who didn’t need an outstanding coach to learn from. The thinking was, “It aint broke, don’t need to fix it.” With both running backs struggling it makes sense he’s gone. I would agree that the fact that we had PS players starting on the O-line half the season played it’s role in the lack of production, but still this makes some kind of sense.

    2. Fred Graves WR coach was Smitty’s personal choice. Recall that at the time Smitty wanted out of Carolina. To appease Smith they let him get his guy for position coach. However, while LaFell has consistently improved the past two seasons, Rivera probably feels he could have improved more and besides LaFell and Smitty our WRs are a crapshoot at best. They might catch the ball on third and 5, or maybe not. Besides Smitty’s market value continues to decrease every year limiting his trade options and he seems to be relatively happy (as much as Smitty ever is) with his QB and the offensive system and even seems to have warmed up to a teaching role that the staff feels he won’t cry to be traded again because Graves isn’t here. Hence he’s gone.

    3. Warren Belin LB coach was the most surprising firing but still I can see the reasoning. Despite the excellent linebacker play, Belin was another cheap option (college coach, no NFL experience doubt teams were beating down the door to bring him into the NFL) but again this was a group Rivera felt was already solid. Also, I think Rivera thought he was going to be personally very hands on with this group. I think he has realized as a HC that’s not as much the case as he’d probably like, but the main reason is Luke Keuchly. The franchise sees him as the face of the defense for the next decade and wants him to maximize his potential. When they drafted Cam they went out and got him Shula to be his QB coach and he’s no nobody. Makes sense they would want to get somebody equally as capable of coaching young LB talent to groom Kuechly for a few years at least.

    Rivera knows full well it’s playoffs or bust for him next year so why wouldn’t he want to put together the best possible staff to try and help this team get over the hurdle? As you pointed out, it’s not like we were setting the world on fire with these coaches, so why are you so against a little change? Changing coordinators would signify major change that could disrupt the continuity of the team but some changes at the positional coaching level may be just what this team needs to take their game to the next level, assuming of course the replacement coaches are indeed better than what we already had. BTW why do you write about the Panthers when you so clearly hate everything about them?

  17. At least he is willing to move on when he thinks he made a mistake.
    I trust Rivera as of now. But if he gets off to a slow start, Richardson should fire him midseason so that he can’t inflate his record again to convince Jerry to keep his job.

  18. Jerry not wanting to spend money on great quality talent (coaching and player wise) is the reason why the Panthers are the way they are. “Jerry, stop being cheap.”

  19. we all know you worked in Charlotte and covered the Panthers, but come on DG, it’s like you go out of your way now days to bash this team that essentially got you where you are today.

    its not a bad things that you were with the Panthers, you don’t have to keep trying to prove to people you aren’t a biased writer.

  20. Hmm Fox gets fired, couple seasons later he’s coaching the #1 seed in the AFC….. CAR still stinks…

    Hey Richardson, try looking in the mirror, there your main problem…

  21. Keep Rivera for the next season, if he has a good season then good for all, if not fire him during or end of the year and bring Bill Cowher in, by any means, he’ll get the job done

  22. I never blamed Fox for our woes, JR was the problem as was Marty Hurney.

    Rivera came in to coach a 2-14 that was gutted, and then has to play with mediocre players that were overpaid after the lock out.

    Ron Rivera should be allowed to coach for 5 years, that is how long it will be to rebuild this team, with all the cap problems and lack of talent.

  23. I’ll give you to tomorrow to show that your not a coward Darrin Gantt. If my previous post doesnt get through by then You and I will know that you are… A coward. Yes, i called you a coward. What are you gonna do about it?

  24. Get Real, Darin.

    They let go of their linebackers coach, the wr coach, and rb coach.

    Oh btw they finished with a top 10 defense, top 10 rushing attack, and our receiving core had 1 player over 500 yds, 1 over 800, and 1 over 1000.

    Totally scapegoats. Yep.

    NO. It’s called evaluation. Every team does it.

  25. Is it too late to blame everything on the assistant groundskeeper ? Isn’t there an junior equipment manager or receptionist who can take the fall?

  26. I was reading the story and said, “wow, this sounds like a Darin Gantt bash the coach story.” Wow, guess what? it is. If Gantt had his way, the Giants would be minus two Championships because he would have fired Tom Coughlin before he ever had a chance to win them.

    Why you would give a coach a four year contract, and then fire him after two is beyond me when he was tied down with some poor moves made by the previous GM….and maybe owner.

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