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January 23, 2015

Panthers next to last in special teams rankings

The Dallas Morning News' annual special teams rankings that were released Friday confirmed what many Carolina Panthers' fans already knew: The Panthers' special teams units were among the worst in the NFL in 2014.

The Panthers finished 31st -- ahead of only Green Bay -- in the rankings compiled by the Morning News' Rick Gosselin, who rates teams in 22 kicking game categories.

Carolina was last in three categories -- punt coverage (15.5 yards allowed per return), net punting (36.5 yards) and points allowed (24). The Panthers gave up four special teams touchdowns, including two blocked punts that were returned for scores at Minnesota.

They were the first team in a quarter century to have two punts blocked and returned for touchdowns in the same game.

The across-the-board failures have put public pressure on Panthers special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers, Ron Rivera's college teammate and close friend who had no NFL experience before Rivera hired him in 2012.

The Panthers were 13th in the Morning News' rankings in 2013 during Rodgers' first full season overseeing the special teams. Rodgers was promoted when Rivera fired Brian Murphy with seven games left in 2012, when the Panthers were last in the special teams rankings.

Rivera has defended Rodgers, saying the Panthers were better on special teams the last month of the season after struggling the first 13 weeks.

Rivera is expected to evaluate his staff next week before deciding on any possible changes.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said Rivera would have the final say on his staff. But Gettleman said the Panthers might change their approach on special teams, keeping a handful of players on the roster whose responsibilities are only special teams.

--Joseph Person

Posted by Observer Sports on January 23, 2015 at 04:29 PM | Permalink


definitely don't think it was the coordinator but the talent.

gettleman deserves the blame on this one. i can understand not wanting to pay ted ginn a lot, but he overpaid graham gano (7th highest paid kicker, yet probably more like 15th-20th best kicker.

i mean....he's 2 million above at least 15 other teams' kickers. ginn had a cap hit of 2.25 for arizona this year. so we're talking about a quarter million more than what we overpaid gano for a legit return threat that could also contribute on offense where we instead paid brenton bersin and jason avant . take your pick and subtract that salary from the 2.25 and that was ginn's real cost. a smart person could have done a lot more than try and fix a 12-4 team. augment? sure. add depth? sure. get younger in some positions that are high in age and miles? sure. but an overhaul? genius.

it is bizarre to see how hard on hurney the observer was to be so kind to gettleman. calling this past seasons' draft class "possibly the best in franchise history" is absolutely laughable. he didn't miss on any of the picks except the gaffney gaff which is HUGE and an incredible value in and of itself. but quantity isn't quality.

we once took dan morgan, kris jenkins, steve smith 1-2-3 and added 2 solid end of the roster guys in dee brown and jarrod cooper and took a flyer on chris weinke in the 4th round.

not even a contest. not unless kony ealy turns out to be a hall of famer and trai turner starts for the next 10 years and kelvin benjamin has an impact anywhere near the level of morgan when he was healthy.

that's 4 first team all-pros, 10 pro bowl appearances and a narrow super bowl loss to boot. that's the standard for any other draft class and i don't see 4 first team all-pros out of benjamin, boston, turner, ealy, benwikere

beason, kalil, johnson class is much closer. and i would bet that keuchly/silatolu/norman/nortman/alexander will look closer if a few of those guys get their act together.

then there are several classes that are debatably in line with this past year.

Posted by: charlottean | Jan 23, 2015 4:51:10 PM

It is worrisome that Rivera would deny a problem when the team is next to last in the league. Sort of similar to the Tar Heels finishing 117th in total defense, somebody has to be accountable at some point. You either fire the coordinator or the head coach.

Seattle's special teams basically won the NFC championship game- scored a touchdown on a fake field goal; scored a 2 point conversion; and converted an onside kick. Obviously Pete Carroll thinks they are important. Remember the Seattle guy jumping over our line on 2 field goals? We don't even pay attention-

Posted by: Gettlemen | Jan 23, 2015 4:55:37 PM

Its good to see that Ron was able to get his buddy a job. Apparently that is much more important that putting a champion caliber team on the field.

Posted by: Holmes | Jan 23, 2015 5:05:28 PM

weren't we towards the top just last year? sounds like personnel, not coaching.

guys like munnerlyn, josh thomas, jordan senn, ritchie brockel (injured), were all removed from the equation along with ginn.

and add jason williams also during this season.

and that doesn't include the offensive line issues which contribute to the kicking units.

i'm not trying to defend rodgers, really, but this is more than strategy. only time I remember our special teams doing something blatantly dumb was when they kicked to devin hester. which is still incomprehensible. and IS STILL poor execution by graham gano, not strategy. (it was strategy last year or whenever when they kicked short and out of bounds the entire game which was just as bad).

Posted by: charlottean | Jan 23, 2015 5:20:44 PM

Panthers have not had a punt returner in years. Other than Ginn last year.

Posted by: par404 | Jan 23, 2015 8:09:33 PM

Free agency PANTHES (WR)Marcus Easley (WR)Dewayne Harris (WR) Brandon Tate. all these player can return the ball on kick off .(RB)C.J. SPILLER (RB)MIKE INGRAM (RB) ANTONE Smith (RB)AHMAD BRADSHAW (RB)FRANK GORE

Posted by: ROB | Jan 23, 2015 10:24:36 PM

Free agency PANTHES (WR)Marcus Easley (WR)Dewayne Harris (WR) Brandon Tate. all these player can return the ball on kick off .(RB)C.J. SPILLER (RB)MIKE INGRAM (RB) ANTONE Smith (RB)AHMAD BRADSHAW (RB)FRANK GORE

Posted by: ROB | Jan 23, 2015 10:24:36 PM

Free agency PANTHES (WR)Marcus Easley (WR)Dewayne Harris (WR) Brandon Tate. all these player can return the ball on kick off .(RB)C.J. SPILLER (RB)MIKE INGRAM (RB) ANTONE Smith (RB)AHMAD BRADSHAW (RB)FRANK GORE

Posted by: ROB | Jan 23, 2015 10:24:36 PM

As much as we need better kick coverage, we need somebody that can take a kick to the house even more. Hopefully there's a CB/KR available in the second.

Posted by: skivvy | Jan 23, 2015 11:43:14 PM

Ginn wasn't all that great for AZ last season. Not $3 million great for sure. They were disappointed overall, and not just for the fumble.

What drove me crazy was how opponent gunners seemed unopposed going downfield giving us only rare chances to do anything but fair catch. At the same time we didn't get down field on them. Talent or scheme? I don't pretend to know, but something has to change.

Fake punts or FG's, surprise onside kicks? Not with this guy regardless of the score. I say a new coach is needed for the unit.

Posted by: Sportsdon | Jan 24, 2015 8:37:35 AM

It's is stunning how little Charloteen knows about football and the conclusions he/she comes to. I would let a child oversee the team before I would let charlot make a roster change.
Rivera has no choice but to make a change at ST coach or lose respect of the team fans, and league if he doesn't. This will be as defining a moment in his development as we fans will see. Hiring a coach with no NFL experience and an old college buddy is nepotism at its finest and a great way to lose your job Ron. Mr. Richardson found out that nepotism doesn't work in business and should have stopped that hire from the start.
Be a man Ron and do what's best for the team or you will find yourself looking for a job this time next year.

Posted by: deepenwide | Jan 24, 2015 8:35:35 PM

Just give me a bottle of whiskey and a dozen doughnuts to coach special teams.

Posted by: Steve Spurrier | Jan 25, 2015 11:54:10 AM

Cam is still awful!!!

Posted by: Cam is awful | Jan 26, 2015 8:56:23 AM

i wish i was ron's old pal, i'd have a sweet gig regardless of my qualifications

Posted by: tony clifton | Jan 26, 2015 1:51:56 PM

how little i know about football? so it wasn't personnel then. i guess we had an all-star cast of special teamers this year and it was all on the coordinator.

ginn didn't have all that great a year in AZ? his return numbers were well above average and with a touchdown. didn't play much offense. i'm not even a big ted ginn fan, i'm just pointing out the obvious.

slamming the coordinator is easy, but we let so many guys go from 2013. if the coordinator was really that bad, why were we so good in 2013 on special teams? use your effing brain.

Posted by: charlottean | Jan 27, 2015 6:16:26 PM

ST wasn't "so good" last year. They were mediocre. And the average of mediocre and awful ain't good.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 28, 2015 3:46:30 PM

ST wasn't "so good" last year. They were mediocre. And the average of mediocre and awful ain't good.

Posted by: Michael Procton | Jan 28, 2015 3:46:31 PM

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