As Panthers coach Ron Rivera enters his third season on the job, he occupies one of the hotter seats in the league. He knows it, and he’s fine with it.
“Every year, there is pressure,” Rivera said Monday, via the Winston-Salem Journal. “I’ve seen a coach that was 14-2 get fired, and last year, I saw a coach go 10-6 and get fired. I saw a coach one year win the Super Bowl and the next year he gets fired.”
(He’s referring to Marty Schottenheimer, Lovie Smith, and frankly we’re stumped as to the coach who won a Super Bowl and was fired the next year. Former Cowboys coach Barry Switzer got two years after winning Super Bowl XXX, and former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson’s exit was largely mutual in the months after Super Bowl XXVIII. Feel free to un-stump us in the comments.)
“This is a performance-based industry, and I understand that,” Rivera said. “I understand that Mr. Richardson has to sell tickets and put people in the stands, and the only real way to do that is to win. . . . Now we have to take the next step, and I understand that. We have to get over the hump, and I get that. But I do appreciate the opportunity I have, and with the development of these players and the improvement we are showing, we are going in the right direction.”
It starts this weekend with a rookie minicamp. “I’m actually really glad the draft stuff is over, because now the fun part for me is getting to see those guys in action,” Rivera said.
“Those guys” are led by a pair of defensive tackles taken in the first two rounds — Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short. Former Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, a sixth-rounder, could diversify the offense and possibly allow the team to move on from one of the various, high-priced veteran members of the running back depth chart.
Still, it could take at least a playoff berth to extend Rivera’s stay to a fourth season, given that Richardson fired G.M. Marty Hurney during the 2012 season and hired Dave Gettleman after it. Every G.M. typically likes to hire his own coach; it’s now on Rivera to persuade Gettleman that Rivera is the guy Gettleman would hire.