By HCR Staff | Aug. 16, 2018
Between now and the start of the 2018 season, Head Coach Ranking will provide a scouting report on all 32 NFL head coaches. Today, we’ll take a look at Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera.
Ron Rivera’s Panthers team plays exactly like the man himself: proud, physical, unapologetic, tough and, most of all, unconventional.
It’s been a successful recipe for Rivera — Panthers opponents know that when one plays the Panthers, it will be a slugfest with twists. Rivera is unpredictable in his decision-making; it’s how he’s earned the nickname “Riverboat Ron” – fourth-and-short doesn’t faze Rivera. His head coaching style is refreshing in this age of analytics, and it has brought him much success.
Rivera’s head coaching style is reflective, generally speaking, of head coaches who were former NFL players. One advantage former players have as head coaches is their ability to easily relate to what their players may be feeling or thinking during a game. Analytics-driven executives don’t like “feelings” or “gut” playing much of a part in the decision-making process, but we don’t discount it all. Super Bowl-winning Eagles head coach Doug Pederson is a former NFL player. The Eagles have supported him by providing analytics-driven options, but it isn’t mandated. When QB Carson Wentz was lost for the season, no amount of analytics could tell a head coach how to handle backup QB Nick Foles’ confidence, except for a former player like Pederson, who had once filled the same shoes as Foles.
One of Rivera’s strengths is his ability to always have the pulse of his team. It’s an underrated quality in head coaches but it is one we admire.
One area where Rivera might improve is his in-game adjustments. The Panthers always want to play the game their way, but sometimes events dictate that a team must make adjustments on the fly. This offseason, Rivera changed out his offensive coordinator, going from Mike Shula to Norv Turner. Perhaps this is an acknowledgement by Rivera that change and flexibility were necessary going into the 2018 season.
Rivera just inherited a new owner, and our data shows that head coaches typically don’t survive new ownership for long. We think Rivera will be an exception and that new Panthers owner David Tepper will like what he sees in Rivera. In the toughest division in football, the NFC South, the Panthers have a known quantity in Rivera.
Previous HC Previews:
Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks
Sean McVay, Los Angeles Rams
Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
Steve Wilks, Arizona Cardinals
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions
Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints
Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons