The Carolina Panthers came within one game of finishing an undefeated season, but a late season loss to the Atlanta Falcons ended the perfect record. Of course, none of that matters because the playoffs resets everyone back to 0-0 as they play the tournament to reach the Super Bowl. The Panthers may have the best record in the NFC for seeding, but they could still face teams like the Seattle Seahawks or Green Bay Packers in the divisional round, so nothing is secure. Here is a look at the team headlines during their Wild Card bye week.
New York Giants Interested in Offensive Coordinator
NFL teams cannot interview assistant coaches from other NFL teams until their season is ended. That means that Carolina Panthers' assistants can't interview for other jobs as long as they are in the playoffs. However, after head coach Tom Coughlin ended his tenure as the Giants head coach, the team needs a new leader and they are hoping for an interview with Panthers' defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. The Cleveland Browns are also interested in McDermott, and the coordinator himself has expressed interested in coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. The Panthers ranked sixth in the NFL this season in defense, the fourth straight season they were in the top 10 in defense.
Ron Rivera Supports Assistants Moving On
There is also a chance that the assistant coaches from the Panthers would have the blessing to take calls from other teams, even if they haven't won the Super Bowl yet. Head coach Ron Rivera is so confident in his team, and has such a great relationship with his coaching staff, he said he won't stand in anyone's way if they are offered a head coaching position. "If somebody comes a calling, we’ll certainly allow it to a happen," Rivera said Monday. "I’ll be thrilled for them if somebody does call." Mike Shula is another assistant who might get a call, as the Panthers led the NFL with 31.2 points per game.
Cam Newton a Legitimate MVP Candidate
Cam Newton is a legitimate candidate for the NFL MVP award. After winning the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award five times this season, the most since Tom Brady did it in 2007. Newton threw for 3.837 yards this season with 35 touchdowns (a career high) and 10 interceptions (a career low). He also ran for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. The biggest thing that separates him from Carson Palmer, another strong candidate, is their records. Both teams have first round byes, but the Panthers one-loss season will factor in as well.
Josh Norman and Luke Kuechly Defensive Candidates for Player of the Year
With Sean McDermott up for a number of head coaching jobs thanks to his work with the Carolina Panthers defense, he has a pair of players to thank for their hard work. Both cornerback Josh Norman and linebacker Luke Kuechly are candidates for the NFL Defensive Player of the Year this season. While they have to overcome the juggernaut that is J.J. Watt, both men have huge numbers. Norman has 19 passes defensed or intercepted this season, fourth best in the NFL and three forced fumbles. Only two touchdowns were scored against him. Kuechley had 118 tackles on the season, had four interceptions, and was the highest graded linebacker in the NFL this year.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.
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