Dear Ron Rivera – An open letter to the Panthers head coach

Dear Ron Rivera,

On paper, the Carolina Panthers are 2-1. In reality, they look 0-3. This isn’t the Panthers team you guys have been hyping up over the off-season, talking about, evolution, speed, and dominance. This is a continuation of 2016. Only this team may be worse.

First, you can’t expect to keep running the ball and kicking field goals against a team like the Saints. Don’t you understand Sean Payton will make you pay with Drew Brees and their offense? In fact, they may be some of the best in the NFL at exploiting zone coverages.

I mean running center 80% of plays, don’t you think the Saints will obviously exploit that? Trying to maintain a “ball-control offense” with a “smash-mouth defense” may have worked during your era, but the NFL has changed. Panthers may have owned the time of possession, but the results show that statistic is worthless.

Yes, the Carolina Panthers offensive tackles were bad. Yes, Cam Newton had a very bad game today (more specifically decision-making.) Indeed, lots of things did not go our way against the Saints.

However, that does not excuse the overall terrible product seen on the field. You guys were preaching evolution, yet we get predictability and poor management. Against the worst defense in the NFL, with three starting DBs out, the Panthers should’ve been able to do something. Yet, they never did.

Secondly, don’t you think that we should be using our speed guys a bit more? I mean go ahead and pull back that Curtis Samuel jet sweep. Go back to week one where Curtis Samuel ran a nice route and found himself wide open. Go and look at his speed on some of his returns today.

Why is Devin Funchess for the most part running our only deep routes? Sure, I get that Curtis Samuel didn’t have much time over training camp to practice. However, you have to understand he’s a huge weapon. He was one of our most explosive play-makers today.

The fact we’re barely passing and not using our offensive personnel to their full potential is criminal. Whether it’s Shula or your fault, something needs to change – and fast.

Lastly, the biggest issue – where did “Riverboat” go? Every game, you appear stoic and scared. No longer are you the one who’ll gamble and reap its rewards. Rather, you remain conservative and make very costly decisions by not having that “riverboat” personality.

First of all, we should’ve went for it on fourth down and goal against the Bills. Don’t you remember in 2013 when that same exact thing happened, and we lost to the Bills? If Zay Jones caught that ball, we’d be 1-2 right now.

I mean don’t you remember what you said after that 2013 Bills game?

“I finally figured out what I had been doing was going by the book, taking the points on fourth down–and it wasn’t working.”

Why don’t you listen to your own advice?

Probability wise, we only would’ve lost 5% on our chances of winning. If we missed the touchdown, the Bills start from the two yard line. Considering how dominant our defense has been all game, it’s very unlikely that they muster anything to get to the red-zone.

I mean if anything else, the Panthers possess the greatest red-zone weapon in the NFL in Cam Newton in the 2-yard area. If all else fails, just run something to get his legs moving and smashing into the end-zone. More than likely, Cam Newton will get the touchdown.

Now, you decide to punt it on the 35 yard line? Is this a joke? I mean I’m looking at your explanation and trying to process how that’s a valid excuse for that pathetic call.

Seriously? “Didn’t want to give Saints momentum.” I mean by that time they were up double digits, it should’ve been obvious punting wasn’t going to change anything.

It would’ve been around a 52 yard field goal if we at least go for a field goal. That would’ve given us a better chance to win the game. But no, you punt it, and force Palardy to have such a short field to try to pin the Saints in.

As a result, the punt went to the end-zone and only was a difference of net 15 yards from where you originally punted it.

In football, you can’t play scared. You have to roll the dice sometimes and reap the rewards. Remember the success you had in 2013 to the point we nicknamed you “Riverboat Ron?” Panther nation loved you, and likely could’ve cared less if even half of those failed.

Nowadays, you never seem to go for it. From management during the Chiefs game in 2016, not going for it during the Raiders, and in 2017 the Bills and Saints, you’ve played scared and cost us far too many times.

All we want is a good team. We know this offense has potential. We know this defense is much better than their performance against the Saints.

But it starts with you, Ron Rivera. You need to make tougher decisions and riskier choices. Otherwise, Panther fans everywhere will be very happy to see you off to another team if nothing changes. You can fix this. This Panthers team has too much potential, and we’ve seen what you can do when you play aggressive.

Please, don’t let this be another season of mediocrity.

Sincerely,

Nathan Ray and Panther fans everywhere

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Writer for the CarolinaHuddle. In-depth analysis, breakdowns, and articles all related to the Carolina Panthers.