Carolina Panthers offseason adds to pressure on Ron Rivera
Carolina Panthers offseason additions put pressure on Ron Rivera.
Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera enters his ninth season and it may be his most important yet. A key piece to the organization as it underwent a change in ownership following the firing and re-hiring of a former general manager, Rivera has provided a strong foundation for the franchise during his near decade at the helm.
Leading the Panthers through their most successful string of seasons in franchise history, Carolina also played in only their second ever Super Bowl with Rivera in charge. Winning three consecutive divisional titles boosted his resume but there have been challenges.
Despite the string of success, Carolina has never recorded back-to-back winning seasons. Poised to change their luck in 2018, a hot start nearly ended with eight consecutive losses if not for a salvaged win to end the season. Quarterback Cam Newton re-aggravated his shoulder, in addition to other lapses – namely an inability to apply any pressure on opposing quarterbacks – and the Panthers faltered down the stretch.
General manager Marty Hurney made steps to improve in this area through free agency and the draft during the offseason. Brining in veteran Bruce Irvin and landing prized free agent Gerald McCoy, Carolina also used their first-round pick on edge rusher Brian Burns out of Florida State.
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The moves, coupled with a decisive effort to add speed and infuse the roster with some youth, are expected to benefit the Panthers next season. Provided Newton continues his improvement and remains healthy throughout 2019, positive results should follow.
If not, David Tepper may make some serious changes during his first full year of ownership. A change in defensive strategy, imposed by Rivera, already puts the onus on him for their production. No stranger to the pressures of running an NFL franchise, this season could be his last if the results don’t follow.
On the hot seat before, Rivera has always provided steadfast leadership and there’s no question his team always plays hard. Seemingly a respected coach both by his peers and players alike, hopes are the team leaves their second-half slide in the past.
Facing a tough test with defending AFC champion Los Angeles visiting in Week 1, Tepper will get a quick look at how Rivera handles this year’s team against a strong opponent.