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Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Time to give Panthers' Rivera an extension

By David Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- At about noon ET today, Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman will address the media for the first time since training camp.

His first words should be the Panthers have extended coach Ron Rivera's contract. His next should be the Panthers want left tackle Jordan Gross back in 2014.

His next should be he's putting a coffee machine, couch and windows in the media room.

OK, the last won't happen. But the first two should, even though Gettleman isn't likely to move that fast on either judging by past history.

I addressed Gross on Monday.

Today it's Rivera's turn. He shouldn't have to go into the last year of the four-year, $11.2 million deal he signed when he took over the team in 2011.

This isn't to suggest Rivera should get a deal that pays him more than $6 million a year, which would put him in the upper echelon of the league. But he should at least be among the top 20 highest paid coaches, maybe top 15, which he is not.

And he should have some sort of long-term job security after leading the Panthers to a 12-4 regular season, the NFC South title and a first-round playoff bye.

What happened in Sunday's 23-10 NFC divisional playoff loss to San Francisco shouldn't overshadow what was accomplished.

The way Rivera held things together when the Panther were 1-3 is why this team was able to win eight straight and 11 of its final 12 games. The players love playing for him and have completely bought into his philosophy.

They repeatedly said his strength is that he never wavered, never changed even when there was talk of him not making it through the bye week when the team was 0-2.

Rivera took a team that was 2-14 in its final year under John Fox and slowly improved it to 6-10, 7-9 to now 12-5 with its first playoff berth since 2008. He's built it the right way, despite being restricted financially with some bad deals made by former general manager Marty Hurney.

The foundation is there for more playoff runs with a franchise quarterback in Cam Newton and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly anchoring the league's second-ranked defense.

Things fell apart for the Panthers when they didn't extend Fox as his contract neared expiration. That wasn't a surprise. There reportedly had been a rift between Fox and team owner Jerry Richardson since the 2008 team was embarrassed in the playoffs 33-13.

Sunday's loss wasn't an embarrassment. It simply was a setback for a team that has the potential to get better.

It's time Rivera has a deal that assures he has time to get it done.