Should Ron Rivera, the Coach of Carolina Panthers, Have Been Awarded the Coach of the Year

The 2015 NFL season has just come to end with the Denver Broncos shockingly pulling off the 24-10 upset of the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. The Carolina Panthers were underestimated all season, but it was tough to considered them the strong favorites heading into the Super Bowl. Denver had the best defense in the league, but they showed no ability to move the ball on offense with a struggling Peyton Manning at quarterback. The dismantling of the Carolina Panthers has some people wondering if Ron Rivera should have won the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award for the second time in the last three years.

Poor Coaching Decisions

Ron Rivera made a lot of poor coaching decisions in Super Bowl 50 that has many football fans questioning his judgement. Rivera wasted both of his challenges early in the first half, refused to go for several key short 4th downs and basically gave up with two minutes left in the game when he punted the ball back to Broncos. Rivera earned the nickname Riverboat Ron early in his coaching career, but he looked like he was scared to make the wrong decision on football’s biggest stage. While nobody can defend Ron Rivera’s coaching decisions in the most important game of the season, that should not erase all of his solid work earlier in the season.

Regular Season Success

Despite losing their best offensive weapon, Kelvin Benjamin, in the preseason, the Carolina Panthers were able to dominate the entire league during the 2015 NFL season. The Panthers were gifted a playoff appearance last season when they won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record, so not many people expected them to become the best team in the league this year. Cam Newton and his unknown wide receiver unit scored a total of 500 points in the 2015 season, which was the most in the entire league.

The Panthers great defense lead by linebacker Luke Kuechly were also one of the best in the NFL with only 308 points allowed. This dominating offense and defense helped lead the Carolina Panthers to an impressive 15-1 record in the regular season. Their only loss was on the road in Week 16 by the score of 20-13 against the Atlanta Falcons. Anytime a coach is able to have his put on such a dominating performance throughout the entire regular season, they are going to be a strong candidate for the AP NFL Coach of the Year Award.

Coach of the Year Voting

Many novice football fans may find it odd that a coach that gets humiliated in the Super Bowl can win such a prestigious award, but the AP NFL Coach of the Year voting is actually done right after the regular season. Since the award is given based on regular season performance, the voters are not allowed to place any value on the playoffs in their votes. The nature of the award and the voting process means that the coach of the team with the best record in the NFL is odds on favorites to win. Coaches that take a poor team with no expectations to the playoffs also have a great chance to win the award. It is easy to argue that Ron Rivera fit both of these key categories in determining the NFL Coach of the Year. You simply can’t hold the Super Bowl against Ron Rivera because the winner of the AP Coach of the Year award has not led to their to a Super Bowl victory since 2003.

Ron Rivera will probably have to win back some fans and media support after the poor showing in Super Bowl 50, but there was simply no way he was going to lose the NFL Coach of the Year Award. A dominating 15-1 record in the regular season is rarely seen in the NFL, so this greatness needs to be properly rewarded.

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