I was real anxious to read this piece but ended up very disappointed. The author not only made some glaring factual errors (Panthers have a 3rd round pick?) I wonder if he followed the Panthers at all during the season:
If It Ain't Broke ... Stick with the read-option, which was less broken than bogged down by Newton's lack of freedom at the line of scrimmage. The fact that Newton has run and passed for 7,546 yards and 48 touchdowns despite intense restrictions on audibling says volumes about his immense talent. It says even more about coordinator Rob Chudzinski; he went from a play caller who influenced offenses in San Francisco and Washington to a play caller whose offense failed to score more than 14 points in six of the Panthers' first 10 games. Replacing him with quarterbacks coach Mike Shula could be the move that keeps Rivera in Charlotte beyond 2013.
Troubling Stat: 8.44 Percentage of snaps in which Josh Norman was in coverage that ended with him giving up a touchdown or a first down, the most in the league according to Pro Football Focus. But it says far more about Ron Rivera's ability to evaluate talent than it does about Norman, the fifth-round (!) draft choice Rivera started over fourth-year vet Captain Munnerlyn for the first 12 games. If Rivera sticks with that tack, his (supposed) lame duck season might not last past Turkey Day.
I like SI and don't plan to hold this piece against them but damn! So where do I start here...how about the obvious:
The read option was working? When was that exactly?
If he had said it worked later in the year, in the second half of games in which the Panthers ran from the Pro formation most of the game then I would have had to agree. But early in the season when we ran it as the base running formation we got killed with it. It might even be why Newton struggled in other phases of the game. Sure Newton did run for a lot of yards and make first downs but much of that was from scrambles versus designed runs.
I will agree the offense was bogged down in the first half of the season (the stats don't lie), I just don't think it was simply Newton's inability to audible at the LOS out of the read option. I think in most cases Newton still runs the ball because that is his mentality.
Does the Read Option by definition require the QB to make his own call at the line of scrimmage?
Now I will agree (since we pointed it out during the season) that Newton seemed to excel when given the freedom to audible at the line of scrimmage. But I think he's confusing making the decision in the read option (hand off or keep and run) with the ability to decide to change the pay call altogether. We were running from a Pro set when it became apparent Newton started to audible so I'm not sure you can equate the two. Besides there could have been a number of other factors in the offense sucking besides the read option. So in the end I just cannot agree the 'read option was not broken'.
So Josh Norman's stats say more about Ron Rivera than Norman? Seriously?
Yes Norman's season ended on a sour note but in the end a player's performance reflects more on the player than anyone else, even the head coach, period. On another note, it's not like we didn't know what we had in Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn was better in the slot and played it in the nickel all season regardless of whether he started or not. I don't think you can just assume Rivera failed to adequately evaluate a player in that maybe it was more due to the scheme and the players they thought would fit.
Maybe I'm splitting hairs here but I think there is enough grey areas in this piece to make we wonder whether this guy is really a Panther fan or just another fly by journalist trying to sound like he has actually done some sound research.