On Tuesday afternoon, the Carolina Panthers made a coaching change. With the team’s playoff chances slipping away, owner David Tepper fired head coach Ron Rivera. While the move gives Tepper a chance to get ahead of the offseason hiring rush, his team still regular-season games remaining; for those contests, interim head coach Perry Fewell will be running the show.
While four games doesn’t seem like much, each outing will give Fewell a chance to prove he’s the right man to take the Carolina Panthers forward. But what will the interim head coach bring to the table?
Ron Rivera pays the price for the Panthers’ disappointing 2019
On paper, the Carolina Panthers entered the season as an exciting franchise. Ron Rivera’s coaching credentials were well established, and Cam Newton looked to be returning to health; in reality, however, things crumbled.
After a rough start to the season, which included losing Newton to another injury, the Panthers entered their bye week at 4-2; after they returned from the week, the bottom fell out. The team went on a 1-5 run, which included brutal losses to the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins. Things were becoming eerily reminiscent of last season’s collapse, which saw the Panthers miss the playoffs following a 1-7 home stretch.
While the Panthers have been plagued by injuries this season, the active players haven’t covered themselves in glory. Carolina’s defense has struggled to make tackles; despite Ron Rivera’s coaching background, they’re among the worst run defenses in the league. The offense hasn’t been much better. While Christian McCaffrey has been keeping the team afloat, he hasn’t received much help from a porous offensive line.
Who is Perry Fewell
When Ron Rivera was relieved of his duties, defensive backs coach Perry Fewell was promoted to interim head coach. But what will he bring to the table?
Fewell started coaching in 1985 as a graduate assistant at North Carolina and spent the next several years bouncing between different colleges. He made the jump to the NFL in 1998, working as Tom Coughlin’s defensive backs coach in Jacksonville. Since then, he’s served on the staff of the Chicago Bears, St. Louis Rams, Buffalo Bills, New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Carolina Panthers. While most of that time came in defensive roles, he did take charge of the Bills’ interim head coach for the conclusion of the 2009 season.
While Fewell doesn’t have much experience as the main man on the sidelines, one of his former coaches thinks he has what it takes. “He’s a fundamentals guy: He always wanted to know why we were shading (an opposing offense) this way or that way,” Phil Tate, Fewell’s high school coach, told Rick Bonell. “He was not our best athlete, but Perry was our leader. Not a hollerer, but he’d just say what needed to be said.”
“If they give him a chance to be the boss man,” Tate continued, “I guarantee they will be a winning team.”
Can Perry Fewell fix the Carolina Panthers?
On the surface, Perry Fewell sounds like exactly who the Carolina Panthers need. He’s a fundamentals guy, who’s unafraid of holding players to a high standard; this season, the Panthers struggled with basics, like blocking and tackling. In the longterm, however, Fewell probably isn’t the man for the job.
That’s not a slight on his coaching credentials, however, but a commentary on how the modern NFL works. The Panthers struggled under another defensive coach, Ron Rivera; that reality, coupled with the fact that club has a dynamic running back and a big question mark at quarterback, seems to point to an offensive head coach. David Tepper will also want to bring in his own man, and probably isn’t too keen on holding into more of the previous regime than is absolutely necessary.
While the deck is stacked against him, the ball is currently in Perry Fewell’s court. If he gets the Panthers back to playing winning, fundamental football, his time as Carolina’s head coach might extend past this season.