Since the 2017 off-season the Carolina Panthers ideal image of the straight laced buttoned up franchise has been put into a blender, and thrown out there for the world to feast on. Taking on an image of chaos, and dysfunctionality that surprises even it’s own fans.
In a world where the generation of political correctness, and public criticism culture runs rampant. The Panthers in one way or another have strangely been able to check mark every box that could draw criticism, or controversy over the past five years.
From domestic violence, sexual harassment, racisim, and sexism. Slowly eroding the PR image we’ve come to know over the years of this franchise, and drawing in the flocks of critics to tear them apart.
Surprisingly a lot of the behind the scenes of dysfunctionality isn’t coming from players like you would usually see in the NFL when these kinda issues pop up, but instead from personnel, and the owner.
In the midst of all of these behind the scene off the field issues the Panthers have had to endure, the team itself has strung together some of it’s most consistent successful years in franchise history.
The one linchpin that has held this franchise together has been the job Ron Rivera has done despite one controversial decision after a game in 2017, and the things the players have had to overcome in these seasons.
Even saying that it feels as if Rivera has been a little underappreciated.
The things Ron Rivera has had to help this team endure through to keep them focused, and on course despite this timeline of events, that for any other team could’ve knocked them off course.
So let’s look at some events to really show what the coach, and the team have had to endure over that time.
2014 Season (Regular Season: 7-8-1, Divisional Champions, Playoffs 1-1)
- Salary Cap Problems.
- March 2014 – Cam Newton ankle surgery.
- March 2014 – Steve Smith vs Dave Gettleman release controversy.
- May 2014 – Greg Hardy is arrested for domestic violence.
- August 2014 – Cam Newton fractures his ribs during the pre-season.
- September 2014 – Greg Hardy is put on the “Exempt List” during the investigation. Remains there the entire season.
- September 2014 – DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert all suffer injuries within a week of each other.
- December 2014 – Cam Newton Car Accident, suffering two fractures in his back.
- January 2015 – Ron Rivera’s home catches fire before the Divisional playoff game.
2015 Season (Regular Season: 15-1, Divisional Champions, NFC Champions, Playoffs: 2-1)
- February 2015 – DeAngelo Williams vs Dave Gettleman release controversy.
- June 2015 – Kelvin Benjamin’s weight controversy.
- August 2015 – Kelvin Benjmain tears his ACL. Lost for the season.
- September 2015 – Luke Kuechly suffers a concussion.
- December 2015 – Bene Benwikere suffers a broken leg. Lost for the season.
- December 2015 – Ron Rivera vs Joe Person on the Panthers concussion protocol.
- January 2016 – Charles Tillman tears his ACL. Lost for the remainder of the season.
2016 Season (Regular Season: 6-10)
- April 2016 – Dave Gettleman rescinding Josh Norman’s franchise tag controversy.
- September 2016 – Michael Oher suffers a concussion. Lost for the season.
- October 2016 – Ryan Kalil suffers a shoulder injury. Lost for the season.
- November 2016 – Luke Kuechly suffers a concussion. Lost for the season.
- November 2016 – Ryan Kalil has shoulder surgery.
- December 2016 – Ron Rivera benches Cam Newton for a series over a necktie controversy.
- December 2016 – Cam Newton suffers a shoulder injury.
2017 Season (Regular Season: 11-5, Playoffs 0-1)
- January 2017 – Defensive Coordinator Sean McDermott hired as the Bills Head Coach.
- January 2017 – Steve Wilks promoted to Defensive Coordinator.
- February 2017 – Team President Danny Morrison resigns.
- March 2017 – Cam Newton has shoulder surgery.
- May 2017 – Michael Oher is cited for assaulting a Uber driver.
- May 2017 – Kelvin Benjamin’s weight controversy part two.
- July 2017 – GM Dave Gettleman fired by Jerry Richardson. Controversy over Gettleman’s treatment of players, and agents during contract negotiations.
- July 2017 – Jerry Richardson brings back former GM Marty Hurney as interim GM.
- September 2017 – Ryan Kalil sidelined for most of the season with a neck injury.
- October 2017 – Cam Newton vs Jourdan Rodrigue press conference comment controversy.
- October 2017 – Kelvin Benjamin traded to the Bills.
- December 2017 – Owner Jerry Richardson is put under investigation for sexual harassment, & racial slur allegations.
- December 2017 – Owner Jerry Richardson announces the sale of the franchise, and his intentions to step away after the 2017 season is over.
- December 2017 – Captain Munnerlyn walking out on practice controversy.
- December 2017 – Controversial “Jerry Richardson” coaches, and players break down after a game.
- January 2018 – Offensive Coordinator Mike Shula, and QB Coach Ken Dorsey are fired.
- January 2018 – Norv Turner hired as Offensive Coordinator, and Scott Turner hired as QB Coach.
- January 2018 – Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks hired as the Cardinals Head Coach.
- January 2018 – Eric Washington promoted to Defensive Coordinator.
- February 2018 – Interim GM Marty Hurney is put under investigation, and on paid leave after his ex-wife accuses him of harassment.
- February 2018 – Interim GM Marty Hurney’s ex-wife drops the harassment complaint, and the hearing is canceled.
- February 2018 – Marty Hurney is hired back as the full time General Manager.
- April 2018 – Thomas Davis Sr. suspended four games for a failed PED test.
- April 2018 – SI article on the Jerry Richardson sexual harassment case. Which includes evidence, and a personal letter from the accuser.
- May 2018 – Defensive Back Coach Curtis Fuller resigns after an internal investigation of workplace misconduct involving emails, and text’s sent to female employees.
Despite all of this somehow this franchise has endured to make the playoffs for four out of the last five seasons, and even a Super Bowl.
The Panthers may not be as dysfunctional as some franchises, but they have to be up there with probably the worst of them with behind the scenes drama, and controversies. Especially over the last two seasons.
Rivera has made his share of small missteps with a late season benching of Cam Newton for a series over a necktie, or Rivera, coaches, and players causing a bit of a stir at the end of the 2017 season with their “Jerry Richardson” team breakdown after a game against Tampa Bay.
Which looking back now, and even at that time felt like a poor decision on their part especially to honor someone who was under serious allegations which we now know to likely be true given the recent SI article.
The only things those players, and coaches had to go off of were rumors, and hear say information at that time, but in the end silence would’ve been the better course of action until the investigation was over, and the truth revealed. Hindsight is 20/20 as they say.
Even though there was this misstep by Rivera, coaches, and players. I can see the perspective of the people who could’ve been fooled by the persona Jerry Richardson showed to his players, coaches, and even the public. The mask that didn’t unveil the skeletons hiding in the closest in regards to the sexual, and racial stuff involved.
Most people forget the Panthers are one of the most diverse teams in the case of minority coaches, and players in the NFL. Starring a Hispanic Head Coach, and a African American Quarterback.
However I do believe Rivera deserves some praise despite these minor missteps for the way he has been able to lead these teams over the years, and how much these team’s under him have had to endure, and overcome to reach the places they did during those seasons.
Even the players who pushed past the injuries to starters, and had to answer the constant questions that didn’t pertain to stuff on the field. Who were able to shut their minds off to the outside noise, and continue to push forward.
At the end of the day people will look at stats, and records to show the worth of a coach, or a season. Without taking in all the circumstances surrounding each season into account. Which can really give an obscured view to any particular season.
While Rivera like many coaches comes with his short comings, and flaws that can be pointed out by the average fan or media critic. His worth lies not only in his coaching, but beyond it.
The way he is able to lead these teams through the muddy waters of injuries, and distractions that would otherwise consume, and doom any other franchise during a season.
To continue to get the effort, and loyalty of his players no matter how dire the season has become. He is almost always respected, and praised by his players present, or past. If there is one thing you don’t hear often from a Ron Rivera coached team, it is “they quit on us.”
This is why he is viewed as one of the ultimate players coaches in the league, and why he deserves a little more credit for the continued stability of this franchise under these dark times of it’s history.