It's hard for me to blame Rivera for this season as it is unfolding currently and there are a couple reasons why.
1. Rivera had his 12-4 team absolutely gutted, either by retirements or questionable choices out of the front office. Gross and Wharton were two huge losses on the o-line and we replaced them with Byron Bell (who is not a good tackle) and Amini Silatolu (who was coming off a season ending injury and IMO isn't very good either). Couple that with having no depth on the line and having to rely on Nate Chandler at RT, and you have a problem.
2. Gettleman did him no favors in the offseason
-Releasing Smitty (no need to rehash this, but to say we miss his fire is a bit of an understatement)
-Losing Key veterans and replacing them with one year rentals or rookies (Captain-who i know we couldn't afford, Lafell, Mitchell, Mikell, Florence)
-Gettlemen bet on Harper and Decoud, and so far he lost that one
-Gettleman bet on Avant and Cothery, and so far, i'd give him a pass on this. I believe Cotchery and Avant could be decent but they need some time to get open and the O-Line doesn't allow for that.
3. The Hardy Situation
I don't think having Hardy ultimately makes us a contender, but it would definitely have minimized our defensive struggles and masked the weaknesses of Decoud and Harper. I don't really blame G-Man or Rivera for the Hardy situation (that is all on Hardy).
4. Despite what many are saying, Ron is still making the 4th and 1 calls "Riverboat style". The problem is, we get the first down but then subsequently stall out and have to settle for a FG or turn the ball over.
I liked what I saw out of the defense this past Sunday. I have to believe that was coaching from Rivera. He and McDermott obviously lit a fire under the defense and they responded by playing a very good game. A game that the panthers should have won. With all that said, he needs to pull the plug on the Shula tenure. The offensive playcalling is atrocious and it needs some freshening up. I'm not sure we have a chance anyway with the O-line we have, but you have to make some adjustments to your playcalling as opposed to doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same results.
Furthermore, the fact that Shula can't adequately call a game against a 3-4 is reason enough for him to be fired. You absolutely can't have a coordinator that can't adjust to multiple defenses. We will see variations of a 3-4 defense from every team we play from here on out.