The Philadelphia Eagles were fooled by a hot finish in 2011, which supposedly made up for how they forfeited Super Bowl expectations months earlier. When the Eagles kept Reid anyway, they sank to the depths in 2012 and had to finally let him go. Now the Carolina Panthers have to hope they’re not repeating the same mistake with Ron Rivera.
The Panthers decided to keep their coach on Jan. 5, despite their 7-9 record in 2012. Thanks to Cam Newton’s brilliant rookie season in 2011, Carolina had real expectations for his sophomore campaign. Instead, Newton and the Panthers struggled, couldn’t keep leads, had their leadership questioned and stumbled to a 2-8 start.
This sounds an awful lot like the 2011 Eagles, who blew leads, had questionable leadership, saw their mobile quarterback take a step back and stumbled to a 4-8 start. But Philadelphia won its last four games that year to save face and delay Reid’s firing. Likewise, Carolina finished 2012 on a 5-1 run and won its last four games as well, which seemed to be enough for Rivera to keep his job.
Ironically, the Panthers started their late hot streak by beating the Eagles on Nov. 26. So in a way, Philadelphia gave Carolina the boost it needed to salvage something from a horrendous season. However, the Panthers now must wonder if their late four-game winning streak was as misleading as the 2011 Eagles’ late winning-streak was.
2013 is a crossroads season for Carolina, as Newton will be under intense scrutiny. Was his great rookie year or his questionable second year more of an indication as to who he really is? If the answer is the latter, then he and the Panthers will suffer greatly and Rivera probably won’t survive this time.
Likewise, the 2012 Eagles had a crossroads season, as they tried to find out whether Michael Vick’s brilliance in 2010 or his struggles in 2011 would re-emerge. Ultimately, the bad Vick showed up and the brilliant Vick from two years ago never returned, which finally destroyed Reid’s tenure.
If the Eagles had moved on earlier when they had the chance, things might not have gone so horribly and Reid might have left with more dignity. Will Rivera and the Panthers wind up wishing next year that he left when he had the chance, or will his job-saving winning streak actually propel him to better things?