Ron Rivera is not the prototype NFL head coach. The Super Bowl winning player had his share of ups and down as the Carolina Panthers head coach in his first four years. Going into year five, his coaching record stood one game below .500 with a dreadful tie hanging around in a column most coaches will never see on their record.
The Panthers family has named him River Boat Ron for his numerous forth and short risks that have become his M/O in critical moments. The idea of a fourth-down push has always had two things behind it. One is the keeping the ball and the other is the momentum that it brings to your team, but let’s not forget the risk involved that you can lose the ball and all momentum. It’s a call that shows the most is overall faith and trust in your players.
This is where in 2015 Ron took the river boat to a new level, by taking one of the biggest risks a head coach can—embracing his players personalities. Most great coaches aren’t remembered for their play calling or for media sessions, but for the way they managed a locker room full of, not only egos, but star players who all want to be the star. This is where Ron is a very different man. He lets Cam (and really the whole country) Dab; he is letting Cam run up on player interviews, shout nicknames for players, and even lets Josh Norman ride his horse into the end zone. He lets the players be who they are. He lets them have fun.
Now this isn’t to say Rivera doesn’t coach them up. In the 38-0 rout of the Falcons (who looked more like pigeons), you could see Rivera calling for his team to go for the shutout; this isn’t something most coaches visibly do. A shutout is not only rare, but it requires keeping the starters in when the game is much secured. Rivera knew that he had the personnel to do it, but he also knew he had the personalities that such a victory would excite. He couldn’t pull Norman off of Julio Jones, and we all know how hard it is to keep Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis out of a game. Rivera wanted the shutout just as much as the fan base did, not so he can talk trash like we wanted, but because he knows that the best thing for football players is 60 minutes of football, playing with passion, and having fun.
It is no easy task to keep a team, who is standing at 15-1, only talking about the game next week, but that’s what he’s doing. Rivera is doing it so well that even fans are all just talking home field in the playoffs. Ron looks to be on his way to his 2nd NFL coach of the year, and is doing it by having fun and letting superstars be superstars by playing like the kids they were when they first fell in love with the game.
THANK YOU RON FOR BEING OUR COACH RON. I WOULDN’T WANT IT ANY OTHER WAY.
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