What a turnaround it's been, huh guys? EJ Manuel's only meaningful contribution to the 2013 NFL Football season wouldn't have been possible if it wasn't for a certain BAMF on the sidelines. For those of you who are new, when Ron Rivera was hired as the Panthers football coach, he was lovingly welcomed by the CSR community and dubbed a "Bad Ass Mother F#$^ker"; hence the initials BAMF. Little did we know that Rivera's balls hadn't much fallen (hence my @oh so clever@ title), and they would remain in close proximity to the rest of his genitalia until Stevie Johnson forced them to finally give way with 2 seconds remaining. A source close to the situation, Lost_terrapin, states this image depicts the gruesome moment when he dropped the ba(ll)ss:
Even though that specific moment happened at halftime of the Giants game, which didn't instill me with much hope at the time, maybe it really was the pivotal moment for our embattled coach. Whenever it happened is irrelevant though, as the sudden change in the pitch in his voice must have finally given him the confidence he needed to start taking those risks he'd lacked the chest hair to take on before. As was much publicized in the wake of the Buffalo game, as well as in the preseason, we Rivera's dismal 2-14 record in close games. However, his new found manhood gave him the power to assume a new persona and move on from BAMF; Riverboat Ron had been born.
Getting to the point of this article, I was inspired by this passage from Bill Barnwall's highly readable Thank You For Not Coaching:
It was Carolina's seventh successful fourth-and-short conversion of eight meaningful attempts this year, with a drop from Brandon LaFell blemishing the perfect record. Each of the seven conversions has either resulted in a touchdown or extended a drive that would eventually produce a touchdown.
Holy crap, can you imagine if we still had BAMF for a coach instead of Riverboat Ron? That's potentially SEVEN touchdowns this team might not have otherwise had. Sure, they may have scored some points on FGs, but is this team sitting in the catbird seat if he doesn't completely revamp his in-game strategy? This question inspired me to look at that much ballyhooed "2-14" statistic and see just how much ole Balls Aren't Much Fallen Rivera cost (or didn't cost) us with his conservative gambits.
We'll look at the 15 games defined as "close" (i.e. margin of victory 7 points or fewer) and see whether or not we were done in by any sans-testes decision making and rate just how much we missed Riverboat Ron. To keep this in the TYFNC frame of mind, however, I'll try to leave the benefit of hindsight out of this the best I can. After an in-depth look at Green Bay, I'll limit my analysis only to BAMF RATING(s) of higher than 6.
Week 1: Panthers 21 Cardinals 28
Nothing to see here. Did someone say Patrick? Yeah, that starfish on Sponge Bob sure was funny. No? Whenever you get past Patrick all I hear is Charlie Brown's teacher and my head starts to hurt. Punting? Yeah, Jason Baker really did suck that season, I agree. Can we move on? For some reason the end of the game is kinda blurry and it hurts to think about. Lets move on.
Week 2: Packers 30 Panthers 23
Cue it up guys... BAMF has arrived! The young, upstart Panthers score a TD against the defending NFL champions on the opening drive and find themselves on GB 26 after a fortuitous fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Johnathan Stewart takes a hand-off 3 yards to the GB 2 on 3rd and 4 to set up a 4th and 1. The Panthers had the home crowd on their side and considering Green Bay's high powered offense, there is no chance 10 points would be enough points to win the game. As an underdog just coming off a successful short yardage conversion on the previous drive, the decision should be obvious, even if you still can't count on Newton in short yardage due to his rookie status. We decide to kick the FG to go up 10-0 and, as you can see, 10 points wasn't anywhere near close enough to winning the game. BAMF RATING: 9
Moving on, early on in the fourth down 23-13, the Panthers found themselves in a 4th and Goal from the GB 3 after consecutive incomplete passes to Legedu Naanee on 2nd and 3rd down. Moving past the barf-worthy decision to choose consecutive pass plays in that situation, especially to effing Legadoodoo, what to make of the decision not to go for it? Considering the game situation and the likelihood of converting from that far out, the decision is defensible; making it a one possession game was important. BAMF isn't totally in the clear though: Green Bay had scored on 4 straight drives (TD then 3FGs) at that point, exhibiting a lot of faith the defense could keep it a one score game (for what its worth, they did). Also keep in the mind with 14:00 left in the game, giving up a shot at 7 from 3 yards away is tough to swallow, since they're deferring the decision to get a TD to later possession. Keep this mind. In total, this gets a BAMF RATING of 5.
For what it's worth, they went for it on 4th and 4 from the GB 3 with 3:00 left in the game at 23-16 after a Cam Newton sack on 3rd and 1. This is what I'm referring to when I mentioned the Panthers deferring the decision early; in essence, due to their decision to kick on 4th and Goal from the 3, they were forced to attempt to convert a slightly more difficult 4th and 4 from the 6 in a much more desperate situation. As you know, they failed, and two plays later Jordy Nelson owners were shitting themselves at the 15 points he just scored for them. A backdoor TD by Cam in the final minute kept this a one score contest, but Rivera's conservative tactics cost them in this one.
Week 3: Jaguars 10 Panthers 16
What a glorious, rain-soaked, cheerleader filled win this was. Rivera gets a BAMF RATING of 1 for his decision to punt on 4th and 10 from the JAC 41 on the opening possession. Another BAMF RATING comes up on the ensuing possession, scoring a 2 by punting on 4th and 4 from the JAC 47. The next possession (via a Gabby Gabbert Gabbs safety) sees us kicking a FG on 4th and 2 from the JAC 17 with a commanding 2-0 lead, netting a BAMF RATING of 6.
We're in the 2nd half now, looking at 10-5 deficit against the woefully listless Jaguars. This game had been a sloppy, ugly,
boner-popping affair up to that point, with the lone TD coming as the result of some incredibly derpy defense at the end of the half. There is 2:24 remaining in the third quarter yet we find ourselves in (essentially) the exact same situation as before: 4th and 2 from the JAC 14. Kicking a FG here is even less defensible than the decision preceding it, considering the end result is still a one possession game, netting a BAMF RATING of 7. This would be higher without game specific context, the context in this case being the fact that Jacksonville offense was uglier than those dripping wet cheerleaders were provocative, not to mention the fact that there was dripping wet conditions. Moving the ball had been a challenge most of the day, so getting the game within 3 points had some merit in this specific instance.
A TD at 4:20 (blaze it) and a somewhat curious 2point conversion makes up the final difference.
Week 4: Panthers 29 Bears 34
Kicking on 4th and 4 at CHI 11 during first possession = BAMF RATING 3 / Kicking on 4th and 4 from the CHI 16 down 20-24 with 5:00 in 3rd quarter (blocked) = BAMF RATING 4 / Kicking on 4th and 5 from the CHI 20 down 20-24 at the start of the 4th quarter = BAMF RATING 3 / Punting on 4th and 5 from the CAR 25 down 23-27 with 5:06 remaining and 3 TOs = BAMF RATING 3
And yet another Cam Newton backdoor in the final minute makes this a close game, but you can see where a more aggressive approach could have changed things, even though the decisions were probably technically right.
Week 5: Saints 30 Panthers 27
Punt 4th and 4 NO 43 down 7-0 11:04 1Q = BAMF RATING 4 / Punt 4th and 2 CAR 45 up 27-23 7:06 4Q = BAMF RATING 5
Saints chew up the clock and score with 0:50 remaining to give you the game's final margin.
Week 8 (2-5): Viking 24 Panthers 21
Punt 4th and 2 CAR 47 up 21-14 7:39 3Q = BAMF RATING 2 / Punt 4th and 1 CAR 33 tied 21-21 15:00 4Q = BAMF RATING 1 / Punt 4th and 2 CAR 28 tied 21-21 9:53 4Q = BAMF RATING 1
F$%k you Olindo Mare.
So that's BAMF Ron Rivera in 2011 for you. Hard to heap too much blame on Rivera for the lack-luster 1-5 record in close games or for the team failing to achieve much significance on the season. Could that loss against Green Bay where his lack of a sack cost us the most have been a turning point? Highly debatable, and with the questionable veracity of "momentum", the claim that the team could have been successful had they won that game is dubious.
Did 2012 see these faults create havoc on a season where the team believed themselves to be contenders? Let me know what you thought about this in the comments, and if there is a demand for it, I will create a Part 2 to accompany this. Want to know more about any particular grades? Feel free to ask and I'd be happy to address it. Think my grades and/or this entire post is bogus?
Go away Feel free to say so. All I know is that when I tune into NBC at 8:30 Sunday night, I'll be thinking TGIRBR: Thank God Its RiverBoat Ron.