Following a disappointing 2016 campaign that saw the Panthers finish 6-10 and dead last in the NFC South, the Panthers’ coaches started spewing out promises to ‘evolve on offense’ to anyone who was willing to listen to them. For whatever reason we were naive enough to believe them and we let ourselves buy into the hope of bigger things when the Panthers spent the No. 8 and No. 40 picks in the 2017 NFL Draft on Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel.
We believed them because in theory, those two players should help an offense evolve into something bigger and better. The Panthers have had a lack of speed on offense for quite some time, and adding two shifty athletes who can line up in multiple formations appeared to be the cure for what ailed us on offense last season.
It’s just a shame our offensive coaching staff doesn’t know what evolve means.
I’m still seeing Mike Shula being responsible for an offense that features a first down run up the middle by Jonathan Stewart that gains somewhere between -2 and 2 yards every single time. I’m still seeing Stewart being given outside runs and McCaffrey being sent up the middle to his impending doom of no-gain. I’m still seeing an offense that requires all but three seconds of the play clock to snap the ball on every play, and sometimes needs an extra three seconds that aren’t allowed, forcing them to call a time-out that almost always comes back to bite them in the ass later in the game.
Some of the issues surrounding the Panthers’ lack of a running game can be attributed to poor execution by the offensive line, and that’s probably accurate. I’m not a film guy, but it appears the Panthers’ offensive line is much better at pass protection than run protection. (Which is odd for a run-first team, isn’t it?) But if this coaching staff is so dead set on evolving then why are they trying to do the same thing every damn time they line up on first down? If it’s clearly not working then why are we still doing it?
It’s because the ‘evolving’ nonsense we heard all summer was just a cute way to say ‘Please don’t fire us for not doing a good job. We promise we’ll do better!’ We’ve been duped, Panthers fans. Simple and plain.
What we’re getting from our offensive coordinator is simply not good enough anymore. The Panthers need to go in a different direction on offense, one that they’ll never be able to while Mike Shula is steering the ship. It’s time to make a change, and the Panthers should make the change now while they still have a chance to salvage this season and compete for a playoff spot.
Which brings me to Ron Rivera. It’s time for Rivera to go as well. Yesterday, the Panthers lost a game where the defense surrendered three points and five first downs. The Panthers managed a paltry three points for the entire game, and gave the Bears two touchdowns — one fumble return and one interception return — that sealed Carolina’s fate. But the problem goes deeper than that.
Early in the fourth quarter, down two scores and inside the Bears’ 40-yard line, Ron Rivera punted. This is the second time he’s done this in 2017. Remember when he did it against the Saints? Yeah, this time is worse. It’s worse because at least he could justify it against the Saints by saying he didn’t want to give their high-powered offense the ball with better field position. But against a John Fox offense that had only made a handful of first downs all afternoon and was led by a rookie QB who had only thrown four or five passes all day? There’s no excuse for punting in that situation. None.
Ron Rivera threw in the towel with almost an entire quarter left in a game where his defense was dominating. Why? Because he’s coaching scared. He’s so afraid of taking a risk and it costing him his job that he refuses to gamble on his offense that has allegedly ‘evolved’ into something more dynamic this season. You can’t win the Super Bowl with a head coach like that, and if you can’t win the Super Bowl with him then why is he still here?
I’m sure Rivera is a great guy and I believe the players like playing for him. He appears to have the ability to inspire them to play above their means. But unfortunately, when it counts he doesn’t give them the opportunity to do so. Instead, he turtles up and takes the safe route, and it ends up killing any chance the Panthers have to win games.
Remember Riverboat Ron? Yeah, that guy’s gone. We’re back to the old Ron, the one who is so afraid of making a mistake that he won’t take a chance out of fear of failure. When you coach to ‘not lose’ you end up crippling yourself, and that’s no longer acceptable for a team who are just two seasons removed from playing in the Super Bowl.
The Panthers do need to evolve, and the evolution needs to start at the top. It’s time for the Panthers to find a coaching staff who knows how to use the talent they have available to craft their game plan, instead of force-feeding their idea of what they want to do on their players, regardless of whether or not it will work.
There’s still time to salvage this season. The Panthers are 4-3 and have a slate of very important games on the horizon that could make or break their playoff hopes. If Jerry Richardson truly wants to bring a Super Bowl to the Carolinas as much as he claims, then it’s time to put people in position to achieve that goal. The current staff aren’t going to get it done, no matter how many times they say they’re ‘evolving’.
Who should get fired?
This poll is closed
Only Mike Shula
Only Ron Rivera
Both Shula and Rivera