As veteran center Ryan Kalil tweeted this week, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera deserves NFL Coach of the Year consideration for what he’s done with a team that had only one player voted to the Pro Bowl.
Rivera also deserves a contract extension, but the timing of a Sunday report about Rivera’s status amid the chaos surrounding this franchise seems a little premature.
The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that the Panthers would like to lock up Rivera – whose three-year, $19.5 million deal goes through next season – to bring some stability to an organization rocked by the Jerry Richardson allegations that surfaced last week.
Rivera is deserving of a raise and a new deal after showing a remarkable ability to keep his team’s focus amid off-the-field tumult all season. Sunday’s 22-19 victory over Tampa Bay sends the Panthers to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years, a feat matched by only Green Bay and Seattle in the NFC over that span.
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Rapoport’s story conceded the contract talks are in their infancy, although that was news to several people I spoke with Sunday morning who likely would have heard if any conversations had been started.
Even before last weekend’s bombshell, Richardson was acting like an owner trying to keep personnel outlays at a minimum. When two of the highest-salaried positions in the building became vacant this year, Richardson reacted by filling one of them on a one-year contract (general manager Marty Hurney) and never filled the other (president Danny Morrison).
If the Panthers wanted to get Rivera under a longer contract right now, it’s not clear who would even sign off on it. Richardson has relinquished his day-to-day duties to chief operating officer Tina Becker, a member of the leadership team that was assembled to made decisions in lieu of hiring a replacement for Morrison.
I continue to hear that limited partner Erskine Bowles is playing a prominent role during this transition period between Richardson and the next owner.
There will be job openings that Rivera gets connected to – with Chicago an obvious connection for the former Bears linebacker. And Rivera should be rewarded for keeping his team afloat given all that’s already transpired (and what is still to come).
But stability has been in short supply for this franchise the past 10 months, and that’s unlikely to change any time soon.