December 16, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talks with San Diego Chargers head coach Norv Turner after a 31-7 win by the Panters at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina Panthers Hold on To Ron Rivera

The Carolina Panthers’ organization announced today that Head Coach Ron Rivera will return for the 2013 season.

After a slow 1-5 start and languishing in the basement of the NFC South for most of the season, a 6-4 finish to the 2012 season including a 4-0 December has the team pointed in the right direction now that the season is over. The Carolina Panthers astoundingly finished in second place in their division.

Rivera, who was signed to a 4-year contract when he was hired prior to the 2011 season, will be working on year 3 next season. Other than the announcement of his staying put, little other information was given. I suspect the organization felt that, despite the single-game improvement over 2011, with the strong finish Rivera should see through the process he started last season.

The Panthers played a lot better brand of football in the second half of the season than the first and after the close loss at Atlanta, the team showed an ability to play against anyone. Frankly, the Panthers dominated the first 56 minutes of that game before their weakness at the safety position was exposed.

In addition, the penalties they inflicted upon themselves early on decreased as the season progressed. For a couple of weeks there, I myself was about ready to throw in the towel on Rivera and I also suspect the decision was a difficult one but when you look at the season as time wore on, the team really did improve their play. The defensive line was regularly applying pressure – after the Denver game – and the defense with injuries in an already-weak secondary was ranked in the top ten for a while in pass defense as a result. The rush defense still needs work, but rookie MLB Luke Kuechly proved he’s the right man for the job there by leading the NFL in tackles.

Look for the Panthers to draft to their needs: WR, S, OG, and DT.

We’ll have mock drafts coming up soon as the Panthers’ position fell from roughly 5th at mid-season to 14th after finishing well.

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