Here's another take on the Ron Rivera debacle by Brian Collin:
The Carolina Panthers' second close fourth-quarter loss of the season on Sunday, a 24-23 heartbreaking defeat to the Buffalo Bills, was anything but unpredictable. The agonizing defeat continued a disturbing trend, as the Panthers lost five of their first seven games last season by a combined total of 18 points.
After the heartbreaking loss to the Bills, it has become abundantly clear that Ron Rivera has not learned from his mistakes. Unfortunately, this was also predictable. Last year, Rivera did not show any progress in his decision making between Week 4 and Week 11 when the Panthers lost five games in similar heartbreaking fashion.
For those of you who have forgotten, the Panthers were faced with a fourth and one in Atlanta territory with a one-point lead – and Rivera elected to punt the ball. On the ensuing drive, Atlanta kicked the game-winning field goal.
In a similar situation in Tampa Bay Week 11, the Panthers – with an eight-point lead late in the fourth quarter – were faced with a fourth-and-one conversion in Tampa Bay territory to win the game. Rivera again elected to punt. On the ensuing drive, Josh Freeman and the Tampa offense scored the game-tying touchdown and two-point conversion. The Panthers eventually lost by six in overtime.
Rather than seize the opportunity to secure the victory, Rivera’s Panthers continuously give the opposition extra opportunities to take football games. This is why the Panthers are losers – and it is also why they will have another disappointing season in 2013.
By electing to use special teams in these situations, Rivera in essence sends a message to the offense that he doesn't trust them to gain a single yard to win the game. Not only do these decisions show a lack of confidence in the offense, they show that the head coach is afraid of losing.
For Ron Rivera, this fear of losing is much greater than his will to win. This is why he lacks to confidence to take the necessary risks to secure wins in the NFL. Not only that, but going for it on fourth and one with a 6-foot-6 245-pound talent like Cam Newton seems like a no-brainer. Successful NFL coaches see those fourth-quarter situations as opportunities to send a message that they trust the offense to make a high-probability play to win the game.
What is even more frustrating for Panther Nation is that many of us knew there was little likelihood Rivera would change his ways in 2013. I even wrote an article expressing the need to pursue new options at head coach last season.
Team owner Jerry Richardson should have seen this coming. Rivera has consistently proven he lacks the confidence to be a successful NFL head coach. Consequently, it was puzzling that Rivera was brought back for a third season, especially when the firing of general manager Marty Hurney put Richardson in the perfect position to allow new GM Dave Gettleman to hire his own coach.
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