The heads continue to roll at Bank of America Stadium -- Panthers head coach Ron Rivera fired special teams coordinator Brian Murphy Monday. He has replaced Murphy with Richard Rodgers, a college teammate of Rivera's at California who he had brought in as the special teams assistant for 2012. Here's my column about the firing and what it means for Tuesday's newspaper.
Murphy's coverage teams allowed a 76-yard punt return touchdown in Denver's 36-14 whipping of Carolina on Sunday. It also got a missed field goal from Justin Medlock and, as usual, nothing good from its own kick and punt coverage teams.
By doing this in midseason, we get another indication of how serious Rivera's own situation is. General manager Marty Hurney has already been fired -- team owner Jerry Richardson issued that pink slip -- and Rivera and his staff are also coaching for their jobs over the final seven games of the season.
So was this a good move? I think so. Murphy's special teams have mostly underperformed for the past year and a half. Rivera characterized the move as necessary because of "philosophical differences" and a lack of production from the special teams. He's got to try something, and of the three chief Panther assistants (the offensive and defensive coordinators being the other two), Murphy has shown the least when you look at the entire history of all the coaches' 25-game tenure.
Of course, no one has shown too much -- the Panthers are 8-17 under Rivera and this staff, which is why all of them have a tenuous hold on their jobs. But if you were going to shake things up, as Rivera obviously thinks he needs to, Murphy was the likely choice to go.
Now what about Rodgers? Well, he shares a name with the American composer who co-wrote Oklahoma, South Pacific and The Sound of Music. But he's not that guy. This is the Richard Rodgers who was part of the five-lateral affair called "The Play" that beat Stanford in 1982. This is his first year in the NFL, so there's really no telling how he will do.
One thing it sounds like is going to happen, though: Joe Adams is going to start returning kicks again before long. Adams got in Rivera's doghouse because he fumbled three times this season, but the Panthers are getting so little out of their punt and kickoff returns that they've got to try something. Rivera said Adams would be getting an opportunity before long.
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