Panthers General Manager Dave Gettleman described a report that he had already begun doing background checks for potential coaching candidates “unequivocally false.”
Gettleman denied the initial NFL Network report, via David Newton of ESPN.com, who said the G.M. was “adamant” it was not the case.
If he’s to be taken at his word, and there’s no reason to believe he’s lying, the Panthers are simply making a mistake.
Whether Ron Rivera should be fired or not (and the denial came prior to a disastrous 22-6 loss to the Cardinals, which dropped him to 14-22, with at least a 1-3 start in each of his three seasons) is beside the point.
Every G.M. (or some other high-ranking official, for the sake of plausible deniability) should always have a list of potential candidates tucked away in a desk drawer or at least the back of his mind.
Because whether it’s because of a horrible record or a mutiny in the locker room or a bear attack, things can change at any time.
And by hiring a G.M. who never met his coach before he took the job, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson set the stage for this appearance of inevitability of change.
So while it’s not the kind of thing that’s polite to acknowledge, especially in a town with the “bless his heart” sensibilities of Charlotte, it’s also real.
If Gettleman’s not preparing for what’s after Rivera, then somebody else in his organization better be, so he’s ready if the time for change comes. Which it always does.