The 2015 season ended in crushing defeat for the Carolina Panthers, as they fell 24-10 to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. The 2016 NFL schedule was released 68 days later, and when it was, the Panthers found out they’d be preparing for the next 146 days to play … the Broncos again, in the inaugural game of the season.
When he found out about that scheduling tick, Panthers coach Ron Rivera was not happy.
“Forget the fact that you’re the defending NFC champs and you deserve to open up at home in front of your home crowd on opening week,” Rivers said Friday, per ESPN.com. “We’re going to make you guys relive it for five more months. That’s how I felt. So for the next five months I’ve got to put up with it, deal with it, answer the questions and relive it constantly over and over and over. Honestly, it became a pain in the ass.”
He continued, referring to the fact that his team did not open the season at home.
“I struggled with that. I really did from Day 1. There are so many things they could have done to honor us and honor our team, our fans and our city that I thought this would have been a great opportunity to show it. I feel like we were robbed of that. We had to wait a whole week to do it. You can tell, I’m disappointed it didn’t work out that way.”
Let’s tackle Rivera’s quibbles in reverse order, because that’s the order of how much they make sense.
It definitely stinks that the Panthers had to essentially relive Super Bowl 50 for 214 days because they were playing the exact same team in their first game of the following season. It was not a great day for Carolina and having to continue answering questions about it throughout the offseason rather than looking forward must have been tough.
But Rivera loses me on the “deserve to open up at home” because they’re the defending NFC champs argument. First of all, to quote both Clint Eastwood and Snoop Pearson, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it.”
Second, the NFL has had the Super Bowl winner open the season at home on Thursday Night Football every year since 2004 (except 2013, when the Ravens opened on the road because of a scheduling conflict); during that time, only five of the 12 Super Bowl losers (i.e. defending conference champions) have opened the following season at home while seven of 12 have opened on the road (the 2015 Seahawks opened with two road games).
Could the Panthers have been given one of those home dates? Sure, but as it seems to have been with the previous Super Bowl losers, how they finished the previous season should have been irrelevant to whether or not they did.
In any event, the Panthers will get eight home games this season, just like every other team in the league.
Source: CBS Sports Headlines / Ron Rivera was not happy about the Panthers opening the season in Denver