The new season of All or Nothing debuted Friday, to little buzz and even less fanfare. For some reason, Amazon and NFL Films opted to hold the fourth season of the better-than-Hard-Knocks program until the eve of the launch of training camps, all but guaranteeing that it will get lost in the shuffle of the return of football.
But the series contains plenty of intriguing moments. And though I’d planned to watch all of it before writing anything about it here, it was time to start typing furiously after hearing coach Ron Rivera furiously tear into his team at halftime of a blowout loss to the Steelers. It was, by the time it ended, a monologue that would make Rex Ryan blush.
Down 31-14 after two quarters of the Thursday night game, the scene begins with Rivera pointing his finger at rookie cornerback Donte Jackson, who has bristled at the manner in which the show depicts his first-year struggles.
“Don’t lose your mind, don’t let him get inside your head,” Rivera says to Jackson, who was badly burned by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown for a long touchdown and needed to be consoled on the sideline. “You’ve got just as much skill and ability as anybody on that damn field. You don’t let that f–ker push you around. You’re too good. But you’ve got to keep your mind in the game and stay focused. All right? Don’t let him get to you. You are too good a football player to worry about shit like that, all right? You go out and do your job.”
Rivera then turns to the other players in the room.
“Now, the rest of you mutherf–kers, the same thing,” Rivera says, an pretty much every sentence that follows merits an exclamation point. “The only thing they’ve gotten on us has been what? Two f–king long passes. You have to challenge these f–king guys. You can’t sit there and accept it. This is their f–king history, this is who the f–k they are. They expect you guys to f–king roll over. You can’t. You’ve got to defy them, and challenge their asses. You gotta f–king hit the goddamn center in the f–king mouth. That’s how you beat these goddamn teams. These f–king teams come out ’cause they think they’ve got big balls, and they challenge your ass. Well f–k them. Challenge them back. Find out what they’re really made of. We’ve got one f–king half of football left. Seventeen points. We’ve come back from 17. In fact we f–king kicked the shit out of somebody with [a] 17 [point lead]. Now get your heads out of your ass and play football.”
Jackson, for his part, performed well after the tongue lashing, holding Brown to one catch in the second half, for negative yardage. The rest of the team didn’t respond the same way. Instead of wiping out a 17-point deficit, like the Panthers had a few weeks earlier playing on the other side of Pennsylvania against the Eagles, 31-14 became 52-21.
“This sh-t happens,” Rivera memorably told reporters after the game, in an effort to wipe the slate clean and move on. But it didn’t work. A 6-2 start became 6-3 after that loss in Pittsburgh, and the Panthers wouldn’t win again until Week 17, when Carolina won a meaningless game for both teams at New Orleans.
And don’t think Rivera is the only one who paints his pallet blue and gray for the blue and silver. The series has more than a few “F” bombs from more than a few Panthers, including quarterback Cam Newton and owner David Tepper.