Teeray, I am also on the fence, but the wind is blowing me toward the "fire Rivera" side. Still, I am not convinced that such a move would solve anything, because we are playing better. However, we are still underperforming. Here are my reasons, ranked in order of significance:
1. Discipline. When my QB ignores my QB coach on the sideline while donning a towel over his head that features the logo of a company the QB endorses, I have a problem with the coaching staff that would allow it. Not to mention that the QB had just kicked an opponent and bumped a ref--REGARDLESS OF THE REASON he did it. Now, this works both ways--the fact that Rivera did not pull Cam to help his attitudinal development is significant, but also significant is the fact that a player who knows the coach has his back is less likely to take matters into his own hands. Cam should have been benched for a. losing his composure, b. ignoring his coach c. pouting and not resuming his place as a team leader.
If a QB got benched for every time he cursed and got in a ref's face, Tom Brady and Philip Rivers would hardly ever play. The bump was unintentional, which is why he wasn't kicked out of the game. But it did happen which is why he got flagged.
Not to mention that he was being driven into the ground or hit late over and over again with no flag from the ref.
2. Game management. People forget, however, that RR was aware of the shortcomings he had on the field. You mention plays in which Norman and Nakamura were attacked by the opposition. I blame Hurney for the fact that RR had a special teamer and a 5th round rookie from a small school in the game. Norman is not physical and was outsized during the Chicago drive. Jamming the huge WR or taking away the slant was not realistic and would have led to a big play. Rivera did not have the cards to win the hand. HOWEVER, he had the player on the bench who could take that away from Chicago--the other Josh. Why was he not playing?
I am not debating the playcalling itself as much as using it as an example of a coach that is trying to find himself and his identity. I think after the ATL he over corrected and became too cautious when the CHI situation came up. He hasn't been a head coach long enough to have a strong conviction of how he should handle certain situations. When you have been a head coach for a while you become confident in your convictions because you have been successful doing things a certain way. If you have not been a head coach a while, when a game like ATL happens you start questioning yourself first. It is a process that almost any coach has to go through. Eventually Rivera will decide what works best for him, and then probably become stubborn about it like every coach does.
As far as the Norman point you made. I agree, but at some point, as the offense is getting closer to the scoring zone in a field goal game, you have to take the risk of getting beat over the top. You can't let the offense just move the ball right down the field like that for fear of getting beat deep. Not when they start getting close to midfield and all they need is a field goal.
3. That leads to personnel decisions. I am not sure RR is playing the best people. Kuechly was better in the middle than Beason from day 1. Beason's injuries and his height made him a bit of a liability compared to Luke. Luke on the outside reduced his effectiveness as well. How often at the end of the season did you ask, "Why was Thomas not playing all season?" Our defense did not improve until Beason went to IR. Kearse was cut and then brought back to start over Fua. Looked pretty decent. What did Gettis do? After Atlanta, what made Nakamura better than Martin? I think he needs to evaluate talent every day, every week, etc. and start playing the best players.
I agree with you on this. But sometimes it is hard to project practice to game day. I think you have coached before so you probably know that sometimes a guy looks great in practice but is invisible in a game, and sometimes a guy looks like he couldn't play dead in a John Wayne movie in practice but when the lights come on is an all-pro.
I think we learned a lot more about some of these players at the end of the season when they had a chance to get in some games.