As it turns out, you can teach an old football coach new tricks -- especially when there's a smoldering fire burning under said coach's seat.
A month after playing William Jennings Bryan to Chip Kelly's Clarence Darrow on the evolution of offensive football, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera is starting to see the light.
The epiphany ostensibly struck sometime in the aftermath of a 24-23 Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills, which left Rivera's record at 2-14 in games decided by seven points or fewer.
The second-most conservative coach in attempting fourth-down conversions through his first 34 games as a head coach, Rivera has stopped dragging his heels. Instead, he's taken on the persona of a riverboat gambler over the past three games, ordering his offense to go for it on fourth-and-1 four times in key situations.
"It's about trying to make a statement," Rivera said Monday, via The Charlotte Observer. "And it's probably also honestly one of the things that I've learned. Sometimes you play by the book and you miss opportunities. It's been an enlightening situation for me. One of the things that I want to try to do is to make sure we are in the best position to win. And the other realization is kicking field goals is obviously not good enough."
A head football coach does not come by his philosophy casually, particularly one with a defensive bent learned at the knees of the hidebound "Iron" Mike Ditka and Lovie Smith.
Vince Lombardi's once tried-and-true, risk-averse style has lived on in the methodology of NFL coaches for more than 40 years. With each successive generation, though, that influence gradually gives way to a more advanced brand of football.
It's refreshing to see Rivera embracing change, whether the impetus came via marching orders or self-reflection.