Ron Rivera learns NASCAR lessons can apply to football


When it’s the offseason, NFL coaches are limited in the work they can do with players, so they have to learn from each other.

But instead of turning to other football coaches, Panthers coach Ron Rivera spent time with NASCAR crew chief Chad Knaus, who has led Jimmie Johnson to six titles.

The geographic proximity makes it easy, but Knaus also had some experience in a similar situation to the one Rivera’s in now.

In 2010, with three races to go in the season, Knaus once replaced his entire seven-man pit crew, which — without knowing much about car racing — seems vaguely analogous to Rivera blowing up his wide receiver corps this offseason.

This guy may jack the car up a 10th of a second faster, but he doesn’t work as well together with others,” Rivera said via David Newton of, “while this guy may be a 10th of a second slower, yet he works well with everybody. We’re the same way. It’s about, ‘How does this guy fit in the locker room?'”

That sound you hear is a bus being driven over Steve Smith, an obvious shot at the best player in franchise history, who was cut earlier this offseason for reasons that had nothing to do with football.

14 responses to “Ron Rivera learns NASCAR lessons can apply to football

  1. 35 year old, 5’9 WR’s with declining production and high salaries being cut seems like it may have at least a little to do with football

  2. Carolina’s offense was 26th last year, and that was before they jettisoned all their receivers. For Ron’s sake I hope he doesn’t intend on winning every game 10-9.

  3. Cars going around in circles for a couple of hours is SO interesting. Even better on the radio!

    I’d rather watch figure skating… or golf!

  4. Then the logical extension of this would be that if the whole team held hands and sang Kumbaya instead of practicing they would win the Super Bowl every year 55 – 0.

  5. I’m not sure about that NASCAR analogy.

    But I am sure that Steve Smith wasn’t part of the problem. He was a leader on that team and knew how to light a fire under their backside when they needed it. The Panthers will miss that just like the Ravens missed Ray Lewis last year.

  6. The Panthers better have a good draft or Graham Gano just might win the team MVP award next season.

  7. I think maybe their theory is that if after all the years unsuccessfully trying to grow someone to complement smith as a #2 or replace him as a #1 that they decided the only variable that they hadn’t changed was getting rid of smith and maybe that he was the one getting in the way the whole time.

  8. “… analogous to Rivera blowing up his wide receiver corps this offseason.”
    Except Rivera didn’t fire his receivers, Gettleman did. He may be towing the company line, but Steve Smith didn’t suddenly become a locker room liability.

    It’s clear to everyone awake, that it is Gettleman and Smith who couldn’t coexist. The problem is that one of them is brutally honest and the other one new to the job.

  9. I remember Rivera mentioning that Steve would not take time off when he was given it. Smith would start out by saying he was going to take it easy and would be going full-throttle by the end of practice. Considering his age and that he hurt his knee on a non-contact play against New Orleans late in the year, Rivera and Gettleman probably felt that Smith should do what he was told to do by taking a day off occasionally. If you don’t do what your boss wants you shouldn’t be surprised if you get fired. As for NASCAR I’m not a big fan, but I think one could learn something from a team that won 6 out of 10 championships.

  10. I find it interesting that, last year, everyone indicated that Carolina had one of the worst receiving corps in the NFL. However, when they all became available on the open market, lots of people have been willing to give them more money than the Panthers were willing to pay in order to obtain their services. Time will tell who made the foolish moves in this case. If Cam Newton can make Ted Ginn look good, he can do so with the current group plus a good rookie or two.

  11. The only thing I got from Steve Smith was that he was passionate and wanted to win. If there’s something more to it or “bad” about that, I don’t know. As far as football reasons go, he definitely shouldn’t be your #1, but I think a team needs guys who want to win and maybe think they are better than they are (99% of the time in everything in life it’s better to be overconfident).

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