If you have a losing record as an NFL coach, you dread getting out of bed on the Monday following the final regular season contest because it’s not called Black Monday without a reason.
This year was one of the worst, with seven coaches receiving their pink slips and getting shoved out the door. There could have and perhaps should have been additional firings, but for now Carolina’s Ron Rivera and the New York Jets’ Rex Ryan have been spared.
Well at least for now.
Ryan has the support of his owner and a proven track record of getting his team into the playoffs. He is also not scared to make changes to his staff when asked, like switching offensive coordinators — Brian Schottenheimer to Tony Sparano. Ryan will have to look for another one this year after parting ways with Sparano.
Part of the Jets’ offensive woes shouldn’t be placed on Ryan or his staff, but rather the inept quarterbacks they have on the roster.
Team owner Woody Johnson thought it would be a good idea to trade for Tim Tebow and have him compete with Mark Sanchez for the starting job. All that did was create a media frenzy which lasted until the final snap of the loss to Buffalo as well as major disappointment for Jet Nation.
The Panthers also fell victim to too much hype and not enough substance this year.
After finishing the 2011 season with four wins in its last six contests, a lot of experts believed Carolina was a solid bet to contend for the NFC South title and make some noise in the playoffs. Center Ryan Kalil went as far as to purchase a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer to let the fans know the Panthers will win Super Bowl XLVII.
However, a closer look at the last-season success showed victories over teams with a combined record of 20-44 and that included a victory over the Houston Texans, which were 10-6.
It shouldn’t have been too big of a surprise to see Carolina get off to a 2-8 start this season with teams like the New York Giants, Atlanta, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, Washington and Denver on the schedule. Following the win over New Orleans in Week 2, the Panthers went on a five-game losing streak, which ended any hopes of fulfilling Kalil’s prediction.
There was that Thursday night blowout loss to the Giants when Cam Newton pouted like a little child, but things weren’t all bad for the Panthers during this stretch because they lost the other four games by a combined 12 points.
Somehow Carolina squeezed out a 21-13 victory over Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins before losing to Denver and Tampa Bay as calls for Rivera’s head were growing louder and louder.
Just like last season, the Panthers responded with a late-season push which may help Rivera keep his job. The team closed out 2012 with wins in five of its last six contests. The only loss was to Kansas City following an ugly 24-hour period involving Javon Belcher and the mother of his daughter.
Once again focusing on the numbers, the Panthers went 5-1 against some of the worst teams in the NFL. Carolina did beat Atlanta (13-3) the second time around, but it also beat two 4-12 teams (Philadelphia and Oakland).
But was it enough progress for owner Jerry Richardson to keep Rivera around for at least another year?
That decision is expected to be announced shortly, but if Rivera is to stay in Charlotte, like Ryan, he has to be willing to make some changes on his staff. It may not be as drastic as replacing his offensive or defensive coordinators, but there should be some new faces around Bank of America Stadium.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.