There is much in question for the Carolina Panthers now that their season has officially concluded with a 31-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints in Sunday’s NFC wild-card game.
The team will now be put up for sale by owner Jerry Richardson, following the allegations of sexual and racial workplace misconduct that surfaced in December. It is without a team president, after Danny Morrison left without fanfare in February. It has a new chief operating officer, Tina Becker, who was a member of the six-person executive team put in place by Richardson in lieu of filling Morrison’s position.
It also has a general manager in an interim role (Marty Hurney’s contract does run through the NFL draft, although he has maintained he is interim), as former general manager Dave Gettleman was fired by Richardson in a surprising move that came just days before training camp.
Finally, the Panthers have a first-year defensive coordinator, Steve Wilks, who is being courted for head coaching positions by multiple teams and will begin the interview process this week.
“I know that Steve is a hot commodity, deservedly-so,” coach Ron Rivera said after the game. “He has done a tremendous job wherever he’s been, starting in Chicago and San Diego and down here with us. It’s going to be a tough one. Him and Sean (McDermott) are two very good people who are very special to this organization. We helped build this team.
“I don’t want to talk as if Steve is gone, but I have a hunch. It might be his time.”
What does provide some stability for the locker room is the contract extension signed by Rivera on Saturday.
The extension, which runs through the 2020 season and is, according to a source familiar with the contract, worth $15.5 million, is the first move made by Becker to keep a constant in the locker room and franchise.
“I’m very appreciative, I really am, what with what the the organization is done, I guess showing a little continuity going forward,” said Rivera. “I think that’s going to be important for us, that there is going to be some continuity.
“I don’t know that’s going to happen from this point. We will see. But I think it’s a good sign for us as an organization, as a football team, having that stability. And we’ll go from there.”
Rivera added that he would like to continue working with Hurney.
“If the opportunity arises, I think it would be outstanding,” he said. “He has done a tremendous job and we have got a very good rapport, I believe. I think he understands what we need and I think he has a good feel for our personnel. There are going to be a lot of tough decisions ahead as we are getting ready, as we go into the future.”