November 22, 2012, 9:00 am
Ron Rivera couldn’t wait to walk it back.
Earlier in the week, the Charlotte media asked the Carolina Panthers' head coach about Andy Reid. The exact question went like this: “Do you think there’s a time in this league, when you’ve been somewhere so long, when separating ways is best?”
Rivera, who served as the Eagles' linebackers coach under Reid from 1999-2003, had an interesting answer at the time:
“I know this: My personal philosophy on that is you have to reinvent yourself over a period of time or you get stale,” Rivera said. “I believe that. That’s mine. That’s got nothing to do with anybody else. That’s how I feel. Coach has been there a long time, he’s had a tremendous amount of success there. That’s a tough place to coach. It really is. This is a tough place to coach, too, but Philly is really tough.”
The part about reinventing yourself or getting stale received some attention. On Wednesday’s conference call with the Philadelphia media, Rivera tried to clarify his comments.
“Let’s get that straight,” Rivera began. “I was talking me, personally. I wasn’t talking about Coach. I don’t want that interpreted that way. I’m saying that my individual personal feeling is how I would do it, not Coach. Don’t put words in my mouth about Coach Reid. I have way too much respect for Coach Reid to question anything he decides to do. We all as coaches have our own feelings, philosophy on it. My philosophy on it is, and I told our owner, if I last eight years here I will reinvent myself. It will be time for me to move on or something like that. But that’s me personally. So, please, don’t make it like I would assume to know anything better for Coach Reid.”
Got that? If Rivera is in one place for eight seasons, he’ll reinvent himself. But he wouldn’t presume to suggest that Reid -- who has been the front man in Philly for 14 years -- do the same thing.
So while we’re being careful not to put words in Rivera’s mouth -- even though Rivera put those words in Rivera’s mouth -- what about the part where he said that Philly is a tough place to coach?
“It really is,” Rivera reiterated. “Because the expectations are so high. The city has had some tremendous teams in all sports. So the expectations do get high because of the success Coach Reid has had. I remember when I was there, going in my fifth season, we made the NFC Championship game and unfortunately we lost. It was devastating because the fans -- the fans get into it. They’re so passionate about their teams and their sports. It’s hard. It’s hard on the coaches. It’s hard on the players. And I know it’s hard on the fans.”
When asked whether Philly has treated Reid fairly, Rivera added, “I know it’s been hard on him.”
It’s been similarly hard on Panthers fans. The Eagles are 3-7. Among NFC teams, only Carolina (2-8) has been worse.
Rivera, who is in his second season with the Panthers, has an 8-18 record as the head coach in Carolina. Not surprisingly, he’s fielded many of the same questions about his job security that Reid has endured here. His answers were a lot like the comments Reid tends to make.
Rivera said he’s “not concerned” about his job. He said he has to put his players “in the best position to win.” He said they all need to “keep going. Keep pushing. That’s what you do.” Sound familiar?
“I’m not concerned about me,” Rivera insisted. “I’m really not. I’m concerned about [the players]. We have a group of coaches that I believe in 100 percent. I believe it’s about teaching and trying to get these guys how to do things and understand things. I’ll be alright. I’ll be OK. Whether I’m here or not, I’ll be A-OK.”
Which brings us back to Rivera’s comment about coaches having to reinvent their style or risk getting stale. That idea runs counter to what we know about certain coaches who can be intractable when it comes to, say, offensive play-calling. Rivera cautioned -- to himself, certainly not to Reid, remember -- that inflexible coaches could lose their gigs and get replaced by those who are better at adapting.
“I think what’s happening is going after the new blood or the guys with different ideas, I think may be a good way to put it,” said Rivera. “I think also what’s happening is, I think the players are changing and I think a lot of the owners are beginning to recognize that, that the guys are a little bit -- I don’t know -- used to working with younger guys, I guess. But the players are changing and I think as the players are changing, the way you deal with the players has to change and you have to be able adapt to them. And that’s what makes a guy like Tom Coughlin so invaluable, because he has adapted the last few years as to who he is. So you’re starting to see that trend toward being able to handle these kind of players.”
E-mail John Gonzalez at firstname.lastname@example.org