It was around this time last year when a late-season home loss to a crummy Cardinals team was the straw that broke the Packers’ backs, leading the front office to stick a fork in Mike McCarthy.
Nearly a year later, an inexplicable loss to a bad Washington team had the Carolina Panthers following a similar path.
The news out of Carolina:
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) December 3, 2019
Let’s set aside AtPanthers’ fancy word-play and call it what it is: Ron Rivera was fired as the Panthers’ head coach on Tuesday. Perry Fewell – who coached Bears defensive backs in 2005 when Rivera was the Bears’ defensive coordinator – has been named the interim head coach.
Rivera was 76-63-1 as the top dog in Carolina. His teams went to the playoffs four times, won three NFC South championships, and participated in (but lost) Super Bowl 50. Rivera leaves Carolina as the winningest coach in team history, surpassing the guy he replaced — John Fox. That name rings a bell!
The 2019 season was arguably the toughest for Rivera, mostly because quarterback Cam Newton wasn’t fully healthy to do his thing. And with all due respect to Kyle Allen for what he has done in a pinch as a backup, he wasn’t scratching the surface of what a healthy, able-bodied Newton could do for his team.
So … what’s next for Rivera? Well, if this would have happened a year ago, I probably would have vouched for him to replace Vic Fangio as defensive coordinator. However, I think Rivera (who if you’ll recall, was kind enough to help with the Bears’ kicking competition this summer) will likely get another shot to be a head coach in the league. There are already a handful of jobs that come to mind as possible openings once the season’s end. And frankly, any team that has a head-coach opening should dial up Rivera and give him consideration.
Now, what the firing of Rivera means to the Panthers is something worth keeping an eye on. Because parting ways with a long-tenured head coach could be the first step toward a more wide-ranging set of changes that could be on the horizon. Carolina has its share of high-priced players who could be moved out in an attempt to kick-start a rebuild, with Newton being a prime candidate to be shopped if the team views the time to change at the quarterback position is now. As things stand right now, the Panthers own the 14th pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. That could put the team in a position to draft Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, or even take a chance on Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa if he declares for the draft and his stock takes a tumble outside of the top-10.
And since the Bears play the Panthers (and the rest of the NFC South) next season, it is worth keeping up with what happens throughout that division this coming offseason.