Let's set the stage. It's the start of the season. We have a defensive minded head coach who, in his inexperience, let the former OC run the offense with little intervention. We now have a new OC who was well known to have close interaction with Cam during the previous two seasons as the QB coach. Few people had a more in-depth look at exactly what Cam was capable of while Chud was calling plays.
Now the new season starts, and the offense appears completely changed. Shula is calling overly conservative plays with out-of-place fits of throwing downfield, and Cam looks completely out of place for the first two games. The fans start beating the "Fire the Coaches" drum, screaming that Rivera and Shula are horrible.
Then game three happens. I noticed a drastic shift in the play calling in this game. Triple options, Cam fakes a screen then hands it off, triple reverses, more designed QB runs... it was very similar to what we were seeing at the end of last year with Chud calling the plays. So what happened? Why change the play calling philosophy now? Many might say that the coaches saw their jobs on the line, so they got desperate to try something different. Well, I would say that this isn't different. Shula and Rivera have both seen how dynamic and effective this offense can be with this kind of play creative calling, so it's not new. The only thing new that I saw was the vanilla play calling of the first two games. So if the first two games' play calling was the change from the norm, then what caused THAT change?
It just might be the GM. If we look at Gettleman's comments to the press we can see that his vision was to have a pocket QB, and he had an unusually long pause when asked if Cam was the QB for the Panthers' future. It wouldn't take too much imagination to envision a conversation that Gettleman may have had with Rivera and Shula. A conversation in which the coaches were told to run the offense as if we had Eli Manning under center. A conversation in which Rivera was served notice that if he screws up he'll be gone. The result? Exactly what we saw in the first two games.
Look, I know that this theory seems to be an attempt to explain away Rivera's shortcomings as HC, but it shouldn't. RR has had two previous seasons to show us his clock management skills and in-game adjustment ability (or lack there-of). However, I do want to be fair, and I know that not everything is always what it seems. I had a bad feeling about some of the things Gettleman had said this offseason. It seems to me that the offensive strategies the first two weeks seem to have tried to conform to the vision Gettleman was touting. The thing is, we don't have Peyton Manning at QB. We have Cam, and we saw what can happen when the coaches let Cam be Cam.