Rivera to play youngsters amid own job uncertainty
Panthers coach Ron Rivera isn’t overly concerned with his
tenuous job security, saying he’s committed to playing younger
players the next four weeks so he can prepare to coach them next
Whether he’ll get that opportunity remains to be seen.
With the Panthers 3-9 and coming off a loss to the NFL-worst
Kansas City Chiefs, Rivera’s clearly on the hot seat.
”People say, `Oh you’re just getting them ready for the next
coach.’ Well, I think I’m getting them ready for me,” Rivera said.
”I could be wrong but I’m not going to worry about that.”
The second-year coach said his goal is to win the next four
games, beginning this Sunday when the Panthers host Matt Ryan
against the Atlanta Falcons.
But he’s quick to add ”at the same time, we’ve got to be able
to do it with these young guys. If we don’t play these guys, we’ll
go into next season with the same questions.”
Rivera is well-liked by his staff and employees at Panthers
headquarters, but his team has struggled to find success
particularly in close games leaving questions about his ability to
manage games down the stretch.
The Panthers are 9-19 under Rivera overall and are 1-12 in games
decided by seven points or less.
When general manager Marty Hurney was fired after a 1-5 start to
the season, Rivera said he had a conversation with team owner Jerry
Richardson and was informed the team needs to be ”trending
upward” the rest of the season.
But the Panthers are just 2-4 since Hurney’s departure and
they’ve suffered some tough losses since, including a 27-21 defeat
to the Chiefs.
Kansas City entered the game 1-10 on the season.
Carolina also blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead against
division rival Tampa Bay and lost in overtime.
Rivera said he’s not had any recent conversations with
Richardson, but still expects to at least finish out the
”The last time I talked with him things were good in terms of
the things I needed to do,” Rivera said. ”I understood the
situation and the circumstances and he’s been very fair and open
Richardson was unavailable for comment Monday.
Rivera started playing rookies more after the team’s playoff
hopes began to dissipate.
Three rookies – linebacker Luke Kuechly, offensive guard Amini
Silatolu and cornerback Josh Norman – have started all season, but
in recent weeks defensive end Frank Alexander, cornerback Josh
Thomas and defensive tackle Nate Chandler have seen increased
Second-year defensive tackle Sione Fua is back in the starting
lineup and Rivera is giving rookie punt returner Joe Adams a shot
after he fumbled away his opportunities earlier in the season.
”We have some good young talent that is playing and developing
more and more,” Rivera said. ”As we go forward you can say yes,
we’ve played a lot of the young guys and seen some good things from
them. We know some of these young guys can play as we look forward
to next year. So that’s a big plus.”
Second-year quarterback Cam Newton, in particular, has impressed
Rivera of late.
In the past three weeks, last year’s AP Offensive Rookie of the
Year has completed 49 of 84 passes for 790 yards with six
touchdowns and no interceptions.
He had three touchdown passes in the loss to Kansas City.
”His outlook on things, the way he perceives things and the way
he’s handled himself the last few weeks has been outstanding,”
Rivera said. ”He’s played very well and given us chances to win.
We have to take advantage of that.”
As for trending up, Rivera said he believes there are some areas
that have improved despite the team’s record, but clearly more
improvement is needed.
”I think there are some positions that definitely have to be
looked at and evaluated,” Rivera said. ”… We have an
opportunity to play Atlanta and a chance to play New Orleans in our
division and that’s a chance to send a message.”