Even though owner Jerry Richardson isn’t in town, the Carolina Panthers are still expected to fire Ron Rivera today, per a report from the NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi. The Chicago Bears have already axed Lovie Smith, and the Buffalo Bills are going to be making a head coaching change as well after firing Chan Gailey due to three poor seasons.
Firing Ron Rivera would be a a stupid and imprudent move for the Panthers, because they have improved their record in both of the seasons that Rivera played in. Why would you fire the head coach of a 7-9 team when they went just 6-10 last season? Even if it isn’t the improvement you wanted, remember how awful the Panthers were a couple of seasons ago.
Not only that, but the Panthers were competitive in pretty much every game they played in, and they lost close games to tough teams like the Atlanta Falcons. Heck, they actually beat the Falcons three weeks ago and closed out the seasons with three straight victories after defeating the rival New Orleans Saints 44-38 on the road yesterday. Rivera has led this team well this season, and injuries are more to blame than the head coach.
The only way that firing Rivera makes sense is if the Panthers want to go after a big-name GM who has a big-name coach he wants to name as the successor (like Bill Cowher, who lives in North Carolina), but it makes absolutely no sense if they remove the “interim” tag from their current GM or higher a less-heralded candidate.
The Panthers made a wise move by firing Marty Hurney- even if it was in the middle of the season- but firing Rivera doesn’t sound like the best move. We’ll keep our eyes peeled to see if Lombardi is right, or if Jason Cole is. Cole said yesterday that Rivera’s job is safe, and I tend to trust Cole more. However, this report from Lombardi is newer, and the former GM already speculated that Rivera will “definitely” be fired.
Carolina had to deal with a ton of crippling injuries this year, as stars Jonathan Stewart, Ryan Kalil, Jon Beason, and Chris Gamble were out for almost all of the season. And I thought the New England Patriots had it bad.
Important Update: Lombardi is now saying that Rivera is “in limbo” until the Panthers find a new GM, and this makes much more sense than his initial report. Richardson will be in town then, and the reasons I stated above about finding a “big GM” shows that Rivera’s future is tied directly to the Panthers GM hire. Man, I hate it when rumors go back-and-forth like that.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.