Thursday, January 13, 2011

Same Old Song and Dance

On Tuesday, my favorite NFL team, the Carolina Panthers, introduced Ron Rivera as their new head coach. Rivera replaced John Fox whose contract the Panthers let expire after the team went 2-14 this season. Fox was expected to rebound promptly, and just today, he was hired as head coach of the Denver Broncos. Before joining the Panthers in 2002, Fox was defensive coordinator (DC) for the New York Giants. He posted a .507 winning percentage in nine seasons with the Panthers.

To me, the hire of Ron Rivera is just a repeat of the same tired story for the Panthers. The magic number in this story is four, and the magic letters are 'D' and 'C'. During their search, the management of the Panthers interviewed four people. The four, Rivera formerly of the San Diego Chargers, Perry Fewell from the Giants, Greg Manusky from the San Francisco 49ers, and Rob Ryan from the Cleveland Browns, were all DCs.

Rivera is the fourth head coach for the Panthers, and all four were former DCs. Three of four, including Rivera, transitioned directly from coordinator positions. Only the team's second coach, George Seifert, had previous head coaching experience. Seifert was DC for the 49ers under the Hall of Famer, Bill Walsh. In 1989, Seifert replaced Walsh as head coach of the Niners and posted an impressive .766 winning percentage in eight seasons. He retired from the Niners in 1996 with the highest career winning percentage in NFL history before returning in 1999 as head coach of the Panthers. His stint with the Panthers would only last three years while he posted a .333 winning percentage.

The first head coach of the Panthers was Dom Capers. Capers was previously the DC for the Pittsburgh Steelers before taking over the Panthers. He posted a .468 winning percentage in four years. After the Panthers, Capers went back to a DC position with the Jacksonville Jaguars before getting another chance at breaking in an expansion team when he became the first head coach of the Houston Texans in 2002. Since 2009, he has been DC for the Green Bay Packers.

Getting back to Rivera, I only know what I have read about him on the Internet, but let me give a preview of Rivera's tenure with the Panthers based on the records of his predecessors. I am going to be generous and give him six years. As I mentioned above, Capers lasted four year, Seifert only survived three years, and Fox hung around for nine years. This year, Rivera will lead the Panthers to a surprising turnaround and go 7-9. In 1995, their inaugural season, the Panthers went 7-9 with Capers as head coach. The Panthers went 8-8 in 1999, Seifert's first year. The Panthers went 7-9 in 2002 which was Fox's first year.

Rivera's second year will continue the turnaround. The team will go 11-5 and surprisingly win the NFC South. In 1996, the Panthers went 12-4 and won the NFC West in their second year of existence. In 2003, Fox's second year with the team, the Panthers posted a record of 11–5, won the NFC South, and went on to play the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. (Yes, I have the DVD yearbook for the 2003 Panthers). In Rivera's third year, the team will have a mediocre year and go 7-9. The Panthers went 7-9 in their third year under both Capers (1997) and Fox (2004).

I am going to say the Panthers will go 11–5 again in the fourth year of Rivera's watch which is what the team achieved in 2005 in Fox's fourth year. The Rivera yo-yo will continue in his fifth (and second-to-last) year with the team going 7-9. The Panthers went 7-9 in the penultimate seasons for both Capers (1997) and Seifert (2000). Fox fared slightly better in his next-to-last season (2009) as the Panthers went 8-8. In Rivera's sixth and final season, the team will limp to a 2-14 record, and he will be left go at the end of the season. The Panthers only managed a 4-12 record in 1998, their last season under Capers. They were an absolutely dreadful 1-15 in Seifert's final year (2001), and only managed two wins with 14 losses this past season.

Below is my prediction for Rivera's tenure as head coach of the Panthers in table format. I wish the new coach the best of luck, but based on previous experience, my guess is that his career with the Panthers with be an up-and-down affair.

SeasonWinLossWin %Finish
201179.4384th in NFC South
2012115.6881st in NFC South
201379.4383rd in NFC South
2014115.6882nd in NFC South
201579.4383rd in NFC South
2016214.1254th in NFC South


  1. You did forget to mention the most important thing about him:

  2. I must have forgotten to mention that little nugget. Let's hope Rivera fares better as a head coach than another member of that particular Bears team.

  3. Yeah I saw that... I guess there goes my fondness for the 49ers.