Panthers head coach Ron Rivera is just as concerned about his team’s mental health as he is their suits and ties.
“You are concerned about that, the mental health of the team,” Rivera said less than 24 hours after a 40-7 loss to the Seahawks (via the Charlotte Observer). “We’re disappointed. Our expectations were so high. But this is the situation we’re in and there’s no turning around. We’ve got to go out and do what we’re capable of and make the best of it.”
Rivera has had his plate full this season. The 2016 Carolina Panthers caved under massive expectations and, all the while, Rivera was having to lobby officials on Cam Newton‘s behalf and find a way to organize his threadbare secondary. Whatever recipe for success the team had last year during their 15-1 run was long gone. Against all odds, they’ll be one of the teams hitting the mental reset button this offseason.
“I’m concerned about the team more than anything — the players and coaches in the locker room,” Rivera said. “I thought we had the makings of a good team. We had a good (training) camp and we all had grand expectations. I really wanted to get back to the Super Bowl. But we haven’t capitalized.”
Rivera, though, may be one of the best weapons the team has left moving forward. The fact that five of Carolina’s eight losses came within a field goal can be attributed to the way he’s navigated a nearly impossible series of events this season. He’s one of the few coaches who voices his concern about the mental health of his players and can be believed with a relative degree of certainty.
The Panthers are not yet officially eliminated from the playoffs but have a long and twisted road to get there. After games against the Chargers and Redskins, they close out the season against Atlanta and Tampa Bay, both division rivals ahead of them in the standings. At that point, Rivera will have a much clearer picture of his teamâs mental fortitude. Whoever wants to play in those games is worth carrying over to start the rebuild.