Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera knows he is on the hot seat, and it’s probably going to be a regular occurrence for him. Being a returning head coach under a first-year GM is never an easy thing, but the Panthers are 2-3. This is a team that should continue to think about building for a future, because they are still a few pieces away on both sides of the ball from being a true playoff contender. The Panthers certainly aren’t far off, but I still think they need to add a true star in the secondary, another pass-catching weapon for Cam Newton, and they really need an upgrade at right tackle.
Rivera knows he’s on the hot seat, therefore it sounds like he is willing to take more risks. The Panthers came into yesterday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings 3-5 on fourth downs this season, and they are now a terrific 5-7 after converting on both of their fourth down attempts yesterday. And they were both on the same drive. And they were both on the opening drive. And they took timeouts before both attempts.
The first gutsy call was a fourth-and-1 at the opponent’s 30 in which Rivera decided to run the ball with fullback Mike Tolbert instead of electing to go for three. Almost every coach would have said, “Take the points” on the opening drive, but Rivera was extremely aggressive. It paid off for him, but he wasn’t done making gutsy calls on the very first drive. The Panthers were at the Vikings two with another fourth-and-1 situation, but they decided to throw the ball instead of rushing it (Tolbert was stuffed on third down). Cam Newton rifled a pass to Steve Smith for the touchdown, and it was a pretty easy one too that had the Vikings defense fooled.
Risky Rivera is certainly something most Panthers fans aren’t accustomed too, but it’s quite entertaining and should help the team if managed properly. It’s also going to continue. The Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person tweeted out yesterday what Rivera said about going for it on fourth downs early in the ballgame, ”It’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do the best we can to make things happen.”