No one knows the answer to the question posed in the title of this blog except Panther team owner Jerry Richardson, and he’s not talking.
Rivera used the phrase “trend up” again Monday when I asked him what would be realistic for his 2-6 Carolina Panthers over the season’s final eight games.
“You want to win them all,” said Rivera, whose Panthers host Denver and former Carolina coach John Fox on Sunday. “You want to win as many as you can. What that number is I don’t know…. There’s a lot of people watching. We have to make sure they see we are trying to do things the right way. This game is about production. It’s a business of production.”
A 6-2 second half would show major progress and might save the jobs of Rivera and his staff. Anything less would mean a losing record for the 2012 season and could be the kiss of death.
At 2-6 after Sunday's impressive win at Washington, the Panthers would need to go 7-1 or 8-0 in the second half of the season to make a very unlikely playoff run. That is almost out of the realm of possibility, but not quite. Only two teams left on the Panthers’ schedule (Denver and Atlanta, both home games) have a winning record.
Interesting historical note: In 2004, the Panthers started 1-7. Then they went on a 6-1 tear and ultimately needed to only beat New Orleans at home in the final game of the season to sneak into the playoffs at 8-8. But they lost that one, finishing 7-9.
That season came under Fox, as did three of Carolina’s four playoff seasons and the Panthers’ only Super Bowl appearance. Until the last of his nine seasons, when the team imploded and went 2-14 in 2010, Fox was relatively popular in Charlotte.
Rivera was popular last year, too. But the honeymoon has ended and the tough work has begun. Even after Sunday’s win, Rivera is 8-16 as the Panther coach.
A victory over the Broncos would make Rivera’s life a whole lot easier. Then a trend really might start to take hold at Bank of America Stadium.
But a loss to the favored Broncos would push Rivera one step closer to the precipice.