A day after Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was sacked a career-high seven times, head coach Ron Rivera sacked someone himself. But instead of trying to fix the team's inconsistent offense, Rivera fired the coach of another trouble spot: special teams.
Rivera replaced special teams coordinator Brian Murphy with assistant special teams coach Richard Rodgers, Rivera's college teammate at Cal.
Murphy's unit gave up a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown to Trindon Holliday during Sunday's loss to the Broncos, and Rivera cited philosophical differences and productivity for Monday's move.
"The biggest thing, more so than anything else, I look to see us improve in some of our production numbers," Rivera said. "I informed coach Murphy at 7 a.m., met with the coaches at 8 a.m. and met with coach Rodgers afterwards. I told coach Rodgers what I wanted. I wanted things simplified. I wanted to come back to fundamental basics and that's the direction we're going to head right now."
Saddled with one of the worst special teams units in the league in 2011, Murphy and the Panthers made a number of significant changes in the offseason. They released punter Jason Baker, drafted rookie punter Brad Nortman, signed several free agents to help with coverage teams and picked kicker Justin Medlock in a competition against incumbent Olindo Mare.
Despite all the changes, the Panthers rank 24th in opponents' starting field position and the return teams have been completely ineffective, despite using a fourth-round pick on return man Joe Adams in April.
Adams has been inactive since fumbling twice against the Giants in Week 3, but the Panthers don't have much to lose by giving him another shot.
"I've talked to Joe already about getting him back on the football field," Rivera said. "I told him I've been watching him the last few weeks in practice and I want to see consistency every day. What I don't want to see is two days of catching the ball and the third day of dropping it. I said, ‘Until I feel that you've gotten to that point, you'll get your opportunity.' But I said, ‘You will get your opportunity.' So you can expect him on the field."