Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera has been given the unenviable task of bridging two regimes ahead of training camp, while trying to lead his club to a comeback season this fall.
The Panthers shocked the football world by firing general manager Dave Gettleman on Monday after four seasons with the club, replacing him with Marty Hurney, who previously served as the team’s GM from 2002-12.
Rivera met with Hurney ahead of the latter’s second stint with the club, and came away with a glowing review.
“It was a great exercise,” Rivera said to Albert Breer of The MMQB. “His comments, his objectives, his perspective, here’s a guy that did it for as many years as he did, and he was out, but still an observer from the outside looking in. There are a lot of guys he has no attachment to, and some of his comments were pretty blunt, some of it was surprising.
“Most of it, he saw like I did, but there was probably 10 percent of the guys, seven, eight, nine guys, that he had a query on. And he’d ask, ‘How about this?’ It was a really good exercise.”
Two years ago, the Panthers rolled through the NFC, posting a 15-1 record before losing in Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos. To the surprise of many analysts, the Panthers fell completely flat in 2016, slumping to a 6-10 record and finished last in the NFC South.
Rivera believes the Panthers’ immense struggles in 2016 stem from their loss to the Broncos in the season opener. The Panthers were presented with an opportunity to exact a measure of revenge, but blew a 17-7 third-quarter lead.
“I heard Bruce Arians talk about the impact of losing that first game,” Rivera said. “Well, believe me, the impact for me was huge. I know there are people that’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re gonna blame it on opening up against Denver.’ Yeah, I am. That’s part of it. It’s not the whole reason, we could’ve righted the ship, but that took a lot of the wind out of our sails. That was a punch in the gut again.”
Armed with a rejuvenated offense and one of the most talented rosters in the league, the Panthers ought to be back in deep playoff contention. If not, expect Rivera and Hurney to have several meetings, none of which will be as amicable as their first one Wednesday.
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