The Carolina Panthers received their 2018 NFL schedule with a unique twist…
Ron Rivera has been the Carolina Panthers coach since 2011, becoming arguably the most successful coach in franchise history. Building an overall record of 67-51-1, including the playoffs, the Panthers have yet to put together back-to-back winning seasons but all hopes are that changes this year.
Compiling his success with an almost perfect 2015 season, the Panthers were 15-1, Rivera had seemingly earned former owner Jerry Richardson’s respect. In 2014, when the team was 3-7-1 following a 12-4 season and expectations were high, Richardson elected to stick by Rivera and the Panthers responded with a 4-1 mark following the bye and sneaking into the playoffs with another divisional win.
In seven seasons, Rivera and the Panthers have won three divisional titles, finished second twice and been to the playoffs four times with one Super Bowl appearance. However, one thing has been lacking from the schedule every year, much to the ire of Rivera.
A home opener.
Dissatisfied year after year because it is out of his control, the NFL routinely put the Panthers on the road for their Week 1 game. Even following a 15-1 regular season and Super Bowl loss, the NFL put Rivera and Carolina back on the road to open 2016 in a rematch against the Denver Broncos and Rivera didn’t hold back telling reporters about it days after the game.
"“We asked for certain things to help us out. We didn’t get any of it. So I’m disappointed, let’s be honest. I’ve got a group of men in there that have done nothing but do the things that we’ve asked for the last five years. It’s been a battle to get to where we are and sometimes I feel disrespected.”"
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Under Rivera, the only time Carolina opened at home was in 2013 against the Seattle Seahawks, in a move that benefited the visiting team. Instead of making Seattle travel across the country midyear, the NFL chose to give them a Week 1 opponent to allow for full preparation and ease the burden of travel.
The 2018 NFL schedule was recently released and the Carolina Panthers finally got what Rivera has been wanting all along. Opening at home, albeit with a new owner, Rivera and the Panthers will host the Dallas Cowboys this season.
Dallas finished last year 9-7, missing the playoffs as the NFC South placed three teams (New Orleans, Carolina and Atlanta) in with better records.
As the Panthers hope for their first consecutive winning seasons in franchise history, it finally begins at home.