Oct 7, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch (24) gets tackled by Carolina Panthers outside linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) during the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. The Seahawks defeated the Panthers 16-12. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-US PRESSWIRE

Marty Hurney Fired: Rivera Officially on the Hot Seat

Yes, the news came quickly. At his post-game interview Cam Newton, who wears his heart on his sleeve as much as any starting NFL QB does, said in part, “Something’s gotta change…and fast.”

Well, owner Jerry Richardson was listening. Gone is GM Marty Hurney, who oversaw the Panthers’ Super Bowl run in losing to the Patriots by 3 points.

The Panthers have not had back-to-back winning seasons under his tenure.

It’s strange, because after the game my colleagues and I here at catcrave.com were discussing the problems the Panthers are facing. We think it’s coaching. Why?

Nobody is playing well. NOBODY. Sure, rookie Luke Kuechly is a monster in the middle, but overall on the defensive side of late, the team has actually played fairly well, especially considering key injuries. Our best cornerback, Chris Gamble, is out. So is former All-Pro LB Jon Beason. The defense seems to be actually improving with the loss of a couple of key players, which tells me they’re beginning to gel as a unit.

The defense still needs 2 or 3 new defensive starters – all in the secondary – and possibly an upgrade at DT to go alongside Ron Edwards, but otherwise has generally played at or above their talent level. Rivera’s a defensive-minded coach, so that’s to be expected. They’re still losing (some) games – AKA Atlanta – but had Newton not fumbled, they otherwise played pretty well then and since as far as scoring is concerned.

The problem lies in the fact that Ron Rivera is the HEAD Coach, and the offense has been out of synch all season long. Some of it is the play-calling if you’ll look at what happened week one vs week two. Week one was 2:1 passes:runs. The Panthers lost. The next week, it was 2:1 runs:passes. The Panthers won.

Sep 30, 2011; Atlanta, GA, USA; Carolina Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert (35) is tackled by Atlanta Falcons defenders in the second half at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Liles-US PRESSWIRE

When you’re paying THREE backs – Jonathan Stewart, DeAngelo Williams, and now Mike Tolbert all that money, you expect to use them. Tolbert’s a fine player with many gifts, but did Hurney really think a 260-lb fullback was going to make the team more explosive?

In the 19-14 loss to the Cowboys, Williams had 2 rushing attempts for 4 yards. I wish I could get paid $50,000 per carry. I’d go in, carry about 5 times for 2 total yards, and retire with my $250,000!!!

The offense is making rookie mistakes all over the place. Speaking of rookies, LG Amini Silatolu had 3 false start penalties that I can remember…there may have been others…all in the second half. That’s simply a lack of focus and something the coaching staff should have corrected in the preseason. Sure, everyone does it once in a WHILE, but 3 in a half? Poor discipline, and that points right at coaching.

Steve Smith, by far the most seasoned, talented receiver on the squad, continues to drop passes. That’s something we should only be hearing about from the likes of Dez Bryant or Brandon Marshall, “diva” – type receivers that put self over team, and Steve Smith isn’t like that. As a veteran, he should know you focus on the ball until it’s in your hot little hands, THEN focus upfield.

I’ve seen too many plays in slow motion where it’s obvious the receiver – and Steve Smith isn’t the only one guilty of this – is watching the ball come in, sets up to catch it, and turns his head to look upfield while the ball is still in the air. I realize with the speed of the game, you try to shave every mini-second of advantage you can get, but first things first.

To paraphrase Pete Rose: “See the ball; hit catch the ball.”

The roster has not improved since their 6-10 season last year. Yes, we added a future All-Pro MLB in Luke Kuechly, but the team is already deep in good linebackers. I still love the pick for the long-term future of the defense, but the defensive backfield got little help (Josh Norman) and no depth added in the draft, and the offense has no big playmakers aside from Steve Smith and he’s 33 years old. Greg Olson is a GOOD TE, but he’s a second-tier guy behind people like Jermichael Finley, Jermaine Gresham, Gronk/Hernandez, and Vernon Davis. Olsen is good underneath and pretty shifty for a TE when he gets the ball in the open field but he’s not a red-zone threat…and the Panthers struggle mightily in the red zone on offense.

The Panthers needed to add another playmaker on the offense in the offseason. What did they do?

They drafted a small, slot-type WR/KR in Joe Adams. While that looked like a decent move at the time, he’s been benched for fumbling and awkward-looking play otherwise on especially punt returns. He has been a non-factor as a WR so far.

They drafted OT Amini Silatolu from an FCS school with the plan being converting the mauling run-blocker into a guard. He’s had mixed results as the running game has been largely dormant overall, he needs seasoning as a pass-protector, and is still being flagged for being unfocused and pre-snap penalties. Yep, the false starts.

Brad Nortman has been mediocre as a punter especially when you consider few teams actually draft punters outside of Cleveland and if you do so, he better be pretty darned special. Nortman is not. Yesterday, for example, he kicked from his own red zone area and the result was a very high, very short kick…that the coverage team astoundingly couldn’t force a fair catch on that Dez Bryant managed to return for 12 yards to the plus-40, placing them nearly in field goal range immediately.

Considering the poor positions the offense and the special teams coverage has put the defense in, I can’t really complain about their play too much. They are showing signs of improving, especially with Kuechly in the MLB spot, but that’s the only area I see growing so far and the pace is indeed slow.

Now that Hurney is gone, Ron Rivera knows he himself has just been put on notice: start winning, or they’ll find someone who can.

Next Panthers Game View full schedule »
Thursday, Aug 2828 Aug7:30at Pittsburgh SteelersBuy Tickets

Tags: Carolina Panthers Fanzone Ron Rivera

  • http://twitter.com/wRaldri Ron Speaks

    Dude, your article sounds like you’re trying to defend Hurney and say it’s the coach and players’ fault, but in the same breath you talk about the lack of drafting players in areas of need. That’s Hurney’s fault. It’s also Hurney’s fault that a few players have been given ridiculously high contracts that handicap signing anybody good in the free agent pool. In particular Charles Johnson is not worth anywhere near the money he was given. The only reason he has 3 sacks is he had one good game this year. Yesterday, for example, the team did an overall poor job of applying ANY kind of pressure to Romo. Some of these players are just not talented enough to get the job done, no matter what scheme you throw’em into.

  • http://www.musketfire.com/ Joe Soriano

    One thing, Olsen is much better than Gresham. No way I would count Gresham as a top-tier TE.

    • Catman

      It’s Jimmy Graham I meant not Gresham, I get the two mixed up ALL the time.

  • Olan Suddeth

    What were the areas of need at the end of last season? Defensive back, offensive line, wide received, defensive line (in roughly that order). So we draft… a linebacker. Kuechly, is outstanding, but was this the best pick? A return guy who had fumbelitis through college, who we are surprised has fumbleitis as a pro?

    What moves were made in the offseason to improve these need areas? Addition of a fullback? See the pattern yet?

    Coaching *is* to blame, no doubt – running backs had yet another sub 50 yard game AS A UNIT yesterday. We seem unable to run anything but zone read and option stuff… nuts with the money being paid to these three backs. Then again, if this happens once or twice, it’s coaching. If it happens all season long (save the one win… hmm….), the GM has to step in, doesn’t he?

    The long term track record speaks for itself. To not manage back to back winning seasons over thirteen years says that you had more than ample opportunity, but just could not build a team. Isn’t that the GM’s job, when all is said and done?

    • Catman

      I think Kuechly was the best talent that wasn’t a “reach” of some sort, and you just cannot miss on a top-ten pick. We could have drafted Michael Floyd, who has 8 catches in 6 games. We got Silatolu high in the 2nd.

      Olan, I agree completely with everything you’ve said. I’ve been calling for ditching the read-option and lining up, smashing them in the mouth, and using the $80-million backfield as a blunt instrument. Hit ‘em, make ‘em stop us. We did that in game two, which we won, running the ball twice for every pass attempt.

      I think Newton would be best (talking passing only) throwing off of play-action, since the defense would see the run as the threat that it SHOULD be. If the opponent’s defense can’t stop the run, they have to deal with play-action and that opens up the entire playbook…the QB draw would be there, and they should run 10 designed running plays for Newton per game…just to force the defenses to deal with another thing. Give DeAngelo 15-20 touches, Stewart 15-20 touches, Newton 10, and throw the ball no more than 25-30 times a game, depending on game pace.

      Olan, you were able to put it succinctly. Again…everything you say I’m WITH ya, man…however, I stand behind the Kuechly pick for several reasons. 1) multiple injuries to linebakcers. 2) the run defense in 2011 was horrid as we all know, and Kuechly was freakin’ BORN to play MLB. He’s #2 ALL-TIME in the NCAA in tackles…after only 3 seasons of playing, and fell only about 25 short of the #1 spot, so the feeling is he’d help stiffen the middle of the defense vs. the run. 3) You just can’t afford to miss with a first-round pick. Kuechly was as “safe” a pick as anyone available if you look at the draft so far. Oddly enough, Bruce Irvin #15 by Seattle was a head-scratcher at the time, but he’s making some noise harassing QBs in Seattle.

      There just aren’t any obvious players, so far, that I see would have been better players at ANY position in the first round so far. Kuechly’s a great pick for defending the run AND for the long-term health of the overall defense. But…he’s too little, too late.

      You may want to go look at the Hurney-Era drafts and commentary I posted yesterday and today. I think the 2012 draft looks to actually be his best one ever, but again…too little, too late, and historically at least half the players taken do not work out in ANY draft. Hurney missed on a lot. Go have a look.

  • Catman

    I’m not defending anyone involved in a 1-5 start. I’m saying nobody is doing their jobs. Chud is calling a lot more pass plays than running plays with an $80 million dollar backfield and limited overall talent, depth, explosiveness or consistency from the receivers. Steve Smith is the only real big star player besides Julius Peppers, then they gave him a Peyton Manning-type contract and now he’s in Chicago besides. Newton is a star, but not enough time to know for sure especially how he, along with everyone else, is playing. Rookie linemen are making high school rookie mistakes. Receivers are dropping passes. Cam fumbled the single most important carry of his NFL life. Where’s this all pointing? To the coaching staff. Who hired them? Marty Hurney. Point taken about Gresham, Joe, I was trying to be generous to Olsen; he’s a fine player but not elite.

  • http://twitter.com/HarukoHaruhara2 Haruko Haruhara

    Man, the Panthers suck worse than Barack Obama!!!