As I listened to a Charlotte sports radio station today, I was shocked by the number of callers who wanted Rivera fired. This is a win now league, but calling for Rivera’s job is an overreaction.
Is Rivera a bad head coach? No. Is Rivera an inexperienced head coach? Yes. Ron Rivera has had eight seasons of assistant coaching experience. He’s held several positions within various organizations, from a defensive quality control coach, linebackers coach, to defensive coordinator for two teams. He has enjoyed success also at each position. Rivera was considered for many head coaching positions in the past. For whatever reason, he was never hired as the head man.
Once Richardson brought in Rivera, he set about hiring a rather young staff of assistants and coordinators with limited experience. led by offensive coordinator, Rob Chudzinski, who coached with Rivera in San Diego. Chud, as he is known, is innovative in his offensive scheme. While offensive coordinator in Cleveland, the offense ranked 8th overall and he sent 4 offensive players to the Pro Bowl. He has been successful wherever he has been, even at the college level, having won 2 national championships while playing at the University of Miami. Personally, I think Chud is a good coordinator. I love watching his wide open play calling style, but I do see some weaknesses. Chud is reluctant to get away from plays like the read option when they are not working. This is an area he can improve.
The defensive coordinator position is entirely different. This is where Rivera has gone wrong. Carolina hired Sean McDermott just 2 days after being fired by the Philadelphia Eagles. Philadelphia fired McDermott because of a soft, underperforming defense. That year, the Eagles gave up a touchdown nearly 80% of the time opposing offenses made it to the redzone. That was the worst percentage of touchdowns surrendered in the NFL in two decades. The defense allowed 30 touchdown passes and gave up an astounding 377 points in 2010. He was a questionable hire and shows the need for growth from Rivera as a head coach.
Rivera will be a good coach. He is still growing into the position. I think he has the respect of the players, and that is crucial. Chud is a well qualified offensive coordinator, as evidenced by his helping the 2007 Browns finish with a 10-6 record. McDermott is the weak link. This season’s defense is ranked 22nd overall, giving up an average of 25 points/ game and is among the league leaders in missed tackles as a team. The defense last season was worse, they ranked 28th overall and gave up an average of 27 points/game. I was willing to give McDermott a pass in 2011 due to injuries on defense, but I’m not making excuses for him this season. The defense has it’s full compliment of players this season and a potential defensive ROY candidate in Luke Kuechly. How much worse does this unit have to play before making a change at defensive coordinator? It is McDermott and not Rivera that needs replacing.
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