While I was glad to see the improvement in the Panther's offensive performance on Sunday (and a marginally better defensive effort), I couldn't help feeling like there are a few things bubbling beneath the surface with this Panther team. I'm guessing that some of you will feel similarly about one or more of these issues, so I decided to put pen to paper and describe a few things that are bugging me right now:
1. Shouldn't a team with a defensive-minded head coach have a much better defense? As much as I like Coach Rivera, there is no excuse for the Panthers' terrible D. It is somewhat axiomatic that head coaches bring strength to the side of the ball that is their specialty. Think Lovie Smith: he goes from being a linebackers coach to defensive coordinator, and then to head coach. And what do we see in Chicago? A strong defense (see also Romo, Tony). My use of Coach Smith as an example was not without purpose: Coach Rivera played for the Bears, and was eventually their defensive coordinator after being a linebackers coach for the Eagles. He followed up with a DC stint in San Diego and is now HC of the Panthers.
So why can't the Defense get it together? A few possibilities: 1) Rivera just isn't getting the job done with the D (which I doubt), 2) he is unwilling to fire or deal with the guy he brought on board to be defensive coordinator, or 3) Hurney isn't getting the defensive talent we need. Whatever the issue, Coach Rivera has to deal with it soon, and firmly. Whether it's putting the DC on the hot seat, or managing upward with Mr. R or Hurney to get the players we need on D, something has to be done.
2. What's with everybody running to the media? Steve Smith, who has
never not always been a model teammate himself, somehow felt the need to take his criticisms of Cam Newton public, in a T.O. type of move. This is inexcusable; Smith is a veteran and knows that this sort of criticism is best leveled—and responded to—in private. One has to wonder whether this is about Smith not being on the receiving end of as many "big air" passes as he would like this season. By all accounts he has a good relationship with Newton, which makes his behavior even more curious. Come on, Smith! If we wanted this kind of drama, we could've signed Randy Moss. Time to bring down the attention-seeking behavior a few notches.
Today it's being reported that Brandon LaFell told a radio station that he wanted to go for it at 4th and 1 against the Falcons. Okay...well...so did I, come to think of it. But why the heck are you talking to the media about this? This is yet another symptom of the lack of discipline in the Panthers' locker room. Where.Are.The.Veterans?!
3. Time is of the essence. It's not like the Panthers have forever to fix the defense, because Newton's contract is up in two years. Not trying to stir up the pot, because my guess is that if things go well in the future for the Panthers, Newton stays. But dollars to doughnuts they try to sign him to an extension next year. Why battle it out in FA for 9 figures? I mean, they'll still end up paying him that much, but at least they won't have to worry about losing him.
So if the Panthers continue to lose, and someone has to go, which person do you think that Big Cat will keep at all costs? Do you think it's Marty Hurney, Ron Rivera, or Cam Newton? Is that too obvious? So if Coach Rivera, Hurney, etc. don't get their respective acts together, it's curtains for one or both of them.
Why? Because no one really believes that Newton is going to sign up for a deal with a team that can't figure out how to win. Consider what he did in Florida, laptop aside—c'mon it's UF for crying out loud—because Coach Meyer was apparently going to start John Brantley ahead of him? He moved on and through a juco and Auburn ended up with the Heisman, a NC, the #1 draft spot, tons of awards, and was ROTY last year. Do you think he hangs around waiting for people who can't figure out how to win with half the NFL trying to sign him?
Like I said, things are bubbling beneath the surface. Looks like the create-a-poll function has been removed, so here's an impromptu poll. Just put your number at the beginning of your answer, or something:
Which change(s) are most important for the Panthers going forward?
1 - We need more talent on the Defensive side of the ball.
2 - Hurney's gotta go, or he has to get serious about Free Agency in the future
3 - The DC needs to go. Right now.
4 - Something Else/Don't Know/Other