Forward To The Future 2018: Coaches

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Ron Rivera

Head Coach Ron Rivera will be entering his 7th season as the Carolina Panthers head coach in 2017. While Rivera a former defensive coordinator (Chicago and San Diego), and linebackers coach has put a top 10 defense on the field for most of his time in Carolina.

The offensive side of things hasn’t gone as great. As the change in coordinators in 2013 from Rob Chudzinski to Mike Shula hasn’t been welcomed with open arms by fans, and critics of the Panthers offense.

Rivera has had a good bit of success as the Panthers head coach by leading the team to 3 straight playoff appearances, winning the NFC South 3 straight times, a NFC Championship, and a Super Bowl appearance.

While bolstering 2 NFL Coach Of The Year honors, and helping Carolina have it’s first player receive the MVP honor in franchise history.

Despite the success Rivera has had there is a ton of negativity following the current coach of the Panthers. One of those being his failure to put up back to back winning seasons despite making the playoffs three years in a row from 2013-2015.

For a total regular season record of 53-42-1 and a 3-3 playoff record as Head Coach.

  • 2011: 6-10
  • 2012: 7-9
  • 2013: 12-4 (1 playoff loss)
  • 2014: 7-8-1 (1 playoff win, and 1 loss)
  • 2015: 15-1 (2 playoff wins, and 1 loss)
  • 2016: 6-10

Rivera will need to get the Panthers back to the playoffs or at the very least post a winning record in 2017. If not the long time head coach could find himself looking for work in 2018.

GM Dave Gettleman who likely won’t go anywhere despite whatever happens to Rivera. Will likely be afforded the chance to hire his first staff as GM if this transpires at the end of the season.

Gettleman will need to really weigh the pros, and cons of hiring a completely new staff given the talent on the roster at this time, if the 2017 season goes south. Losing Rivera could change a lot of future’s for players previously mentioned in the other parts of this series.

Especially veterans. Blowing up the entire staff could also have a negative affect in this crucial time in players like Cam Newton, and Luke Kuechly’s careers. It’s a 50/50 gamble.

If Rivera should end up out of Carolina at the end of the season. I get the feeling he won’t be off his feet long. With the ongoing struggle that former Panthers head coach, and current Bears head coach John Fox is having in Chicago.

It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Chicago move quickly on landing Rivera in 2018 if the Panthers choose to move on from Rivera. It’s almost like a storybook the way these two coaching situations are playing out beside each other right now.

With Rivera’s strong ties to the Bears organization, the success he has had in Carolina, and success defensively everywhere he has been. This would seem like the most ideal fit for the coach if he doesn’t get retained in Carolina.

While I personally like Rivera as a head coach, and have been a strong supporter of Rivera over the years. Mike Shula might be one that seal’s Rivera’s fate. By continuing to back Shula at every turn Rivera has put himself on the line for Shula to return in 2017.

So even though I can see a slight chance where they just fire Shula, and let Rivera have one more chance with a new offensive coordinator in 2018. Rivera’s future in Carolina may very well ride on the mind, and playbook of Mike Shula.

Mike Shula

After putting up the top offense in the NFL in 2015, and helping gain his quarterback the NFL MVP honors for that season. It appears Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula’s offense fell back to where it was in 2013, and 2014 during the 2016 season.

While Shula has been praised for his creativity, and complexity for his run schemes. Shula has fell under criticism since his promotion surrounding other aspects of his offense. About it’s long developing routes for the receivers, his predictable play calling, and his inability to adapt to talent or a situation in a game.

Since taking over as Offensive Coordinator in 2013. The Panthers offense has stayed around the middle to back of the pack in both points, and yards with the exception of 2015.

  • 2013: Points 18th – Yards 26th
  • 2014: Points 19th – Yards 16th
  • 2015: Points 1st – Yards 11th
  • 2016: Points 15th – Yards 19th

While some of that can be attributed to the lack of talent during those times surrounding the offense to make it work, or injuries.

Like playing with Byron Bell, and Nate Chandler as the offensive tackles in 2014. Having a fairly weak receiving group through some of those seasons. Losing most of the starting running backs to injury in 2014. Injuries to the offensive line in 2016.

A lot of which can be contributed largely due the salary cap mess GM Dave Gettleman inherited from former GM Marty Hurney. Which constrained the General Manager from going out, and helping add pieces to fix the offense during most of those seasons.

In 2017 Shula will no longer have those excuses. After using the 2017 Draft, and Free Agency to afford Shula the talent required to run the offense, and “evolve” it. With the drafting of McCaffrey, Samuel, and Moton. Plus the additions of Shepard, and M. Kalil.

Shula will have his best opportunity to outshine the magic he performed in 2015. If he fails to do so or the offense falls into the usual Shula mold. He could very well find himself on the next flight out of town.

Shula is not only coordinating for his job but possibly Rivera’s as well. As Rivera stuck his neck on the line to retain Shula, and get him these pieces he needs to be successful.

GM Dave Gettleman will have to decide what would be best moving forward towards 2018 if Shula fails to meet expectations with this offense. While if this offense fails it’s almost a certainty that Shula will be gone.

Gettleman could decide just to shake up the offensive staff, and give Rivera one last go as head coach since there is one last year remaining on Rivera’s contract. While I know torches, and pitchforks will be raised if this team has a losing record again, and Rivera remains.

I would not think it to be the worst of things if this scenario played out that way. For the sake of continuity with the new pieces surrounding the defensive staff, and positional coaches. Either way a lot of people’s futures may ride on Mike Shula’s shoulders in 2017.

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