Ron Rivera is staying as the coach of the Carolina Panthers, but that doesn’t mean he’s off the hot seat.
Owner Jerry Richardson’s Saturday decision to keep his coach means Rivera will enter the 2013 season on a seat that might be the hottest in the league. Richardson wants to win and he wants to win immediately.
The only NFL owner to play in the league is very impatient, because the Panthers haven’t had a winning season since 2008 and haven’t won a playoff game since 2005. So why does Richardson think Rivera can get the job done in 2013?
There’s no doubt Richardson likes the fact Rivera, and the Panthers finished 2012 on a four-game winning streak. Richardson also must believe that Rivera can turn around his early season trend of losing close games.
I can see Rivera turning things around and getting the Panthers to the playoffs, which would be the only way he’ll keep his job in 2014. But it’s not automatic.
Rivera probably will have to tweak his coaching staff a little bit. I’ve heard the chemistry on the offensive coaching staff wasn’t great. Rivera also is going to have to change his ways a little bit, perhaps becoming a bit more aggressive, and it wouldn’t hurt him in the eyes of the fans to become just a bit more animated on the sidelines.
But the biggest thing Rivera needs to do is get more out of the players that stay on his roster. The Panthers face a salary-cap nightmare, and lots of veterans are going to depart just to get the Panthers under the cap in mid-March.
The Panthers aren’t going to be players in free agency. Their cap situation means the only way they can add any talent to the roster will be through the draft.
That means they have to get more out of the players that stay on the roster. But I still can see the nucleus for a playoff team.
Guys like quarterback Cam Newton, linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive end Charles Johnson, center Ryan Kalil and running back Jonathan Stewart still are going to be around. They’ll have to step up and be better than ever, and so will some other guys.
If that happens, Rivera will be just fine. If not, the Panthers will be looking for his replacement at this time next year.
Now that Rivera is set, the Panthers have to hire a new general manager. There’s talk that Dave Gettelman, Marc Ross and Lake Dawson are candidates from the outside, and there could be others.
But I think there’s at least a decent chance interim general manager Brandon Beane could become the permanent general manager, but that might come with some restructuring of the personnel department. The Panthers already have pro personnel director Mark Koncz, college scouting director Don Gregory and salary-cap manager Rob Rogers in place, and all are competent. But fans might not be very happy if the Panthers simply elevate Beane and stick with what they’ve got. I can see a situation in which Beane is promoted, but someone with a strong personnel background is brought in to oversee the personnel department.
However the Panthers structure things, they have to win in 2013, because Richardson isn't going to be patient any longer.