Ron Rivera got another chance.
But it may not be that good of one, and it’s only making their new general manager wait a year for his.
Panthers owner Jerry Richardson decided to keep Rivera after a Saturday meeting, despite Rivera’s 13-19 record, which includes back-to-back 2-8 starts and a 2-12 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Going back to the lame-duck John Fox/clear-the-books 2010 season, the Panthers have won 15 of their previous 48 games, with just eight wins at home.
Rivera’s 7-3 in the month of December (including a January regular season game), which apparently went a long way toward buying him another year. But December only matters when December matters, which it hasn’t in Charlotte since 2008.
And from the looks of things, it’s hard to know how much improvement they can make in a make-or-break year for their head coach, which could mean another middle-of-the-road season at best.
They’re sitting around $16 million over the 2013 salary cap at the moment, meaning they’re going to have to subtract before they can add this offseason. They’re also short a pair of draft picks (a third and a seventh) for trades made last offseason.
It would be easy to call Richardson cheap for not pulling the plug on the last two year’s of Rivera’s deal, but his (perhaps excess) spending on a team that failed to deliver on high expectations this year shows he’s willing to spend.
So the general manager candidates the Panthers are working through know they’re walking into a situation with a young quarterback and a moderate level of talent, but no salary cap room, and no chance to create their own program with their own pick of head coach.
At least they know that walking in the door, giving them the benefit of a low bar now, with an opportunity to fix things in 2014 if things progress along a linear path.
The Bears wasted a season with coach Lovie Smith this year, essentially firing him because the Vikings beat the Packers last week to keep them out of the playoffs. That shows you that Smith wasn’t going to be hanging around first-year GM Phil Emery regardless.
Likewise, Rivera can’t feel any degree of security with a new boss walking in the door, knowing he’s working with effectively the same roster plus five draft picks, giving him a small chance to improve on a record that needs a lot of work.