Rivera should land NFL coach of year award
Posted December 23, 2013
Updated December 24, 2013
Charlotte, N.C. — The only time a Carolina Panthers head coach won The Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year award was Dom Capers in 1996.
That situation should soon pronto as it’s almost impossible to envision anyone other than Ron Rivera winning the honor this season.
At 11-4, and after a 1-3 start to the year, Rivera has engineered the most dramatic comeback story of the season in the league.
The 51-year-old former Chicago Bears linebacker seemed certain to be on his way out after the Panthers played one of their worst offensive games ever, losing 22-6 on Oct. 6 at Arizona.
But since, the Panthers, who had gone 6-10 and 7-9 in Rivera’s first two seasons, have been stunning.
The rebound peaked with Sunday’s 17-13 win over New Orleans in Charlotte -- a game that clinched a playoff berth and opened the door for a possible NFC South Division title. All the Panthers need is a win this Sunday at Atlanta. The Falcons are 4-10 entering Monday night’s game at San Francisco (10-4).
The work done by Rivera and his staff comes after a long stretch of franchise frustration. Since reaching the NFC title game in 2005 (two years after a Super Bowl loss to New England), the Panthers had managed only one winning season -- 12-5 in 2007.
Rivera will have challengers in the awards race, of course.
Kansas City’s Andy Reid deserves some voting support. So do Marvin Lewis of Cincinnati, Pete Carroll (Seattle), Bruce Arians (Arizona) and Chip Kelly (Philadelphia). But when you take everything into account -- pressure, expectations, progression -- Rivera has to be the winner.
And if it turns out that way, 2013 will qualify as a banner season for North Carolina football coaches across the board. Duke’s David Cutcliffe has won most of the major college awards thus far (although he was denied by the AP), and Lenoir-Rhyne’s Mike Houston has drawn loads of attention at the NCAA Division II level.
AP NFL Coach of the Year winners (since 1996):
2012: Bruce Arians, Indianapolis
2011: Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco
2010: Bill Belichick, New England
2009: Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati
2008: Mike Smith, Atlanta
2007: Bill Belichick, New England
2006: Sean Payton, New Orleans
2005: Lovie Smith, Chicago
2004: Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego
2003: Bill Belichick, New England
2002: Andy Reid, Philadelphia
2001: Dick Jauron, Chicago
2000: Jim Haslett, New Orleans
1999: Dick Vermeil, St. Louis
1998: Dan Reeves, Atlanta
1997: Jim Fassel, N.Y. Giants
1996: Dom Capers, Carolina
Panthers all-time coaches
1.Dom Capers, 1995-1998, 31-35 record
2.George Seifert, 1999-2001, 16-32 record
3.John Fox, 2002-2010, 78-74 record
4.Ron Rivera, 2011-2013, 24-23 record