Ron Rivera is doing like many coaches who are playing out the string, he’s playing kids.
But the Panthers coach said he’s doing it in preparation for coaching them next year.
“It is about winning, don’t get me wrong, because I intend to win or try to win every one of these games we play,” Rivera said, via Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. “But at the same time, we’ve got to be able to do it with these young guys. If we don’t play these guys, we’ll go into next season with the same questions.
“People say, ‘Oh you’re just getting them ready for the next coach.’ Well I think I’m getting them ready for me. I could be wrong but I’m not going to worry about that. I’m worried about each game, the next four games, and going forward we’ll see what happens.”
Rivera said he hasn’t talked to owner Jerry Richardson about that, however, since general manager Marty Hurney was fired. That’s when Richardson told him he wanted to see them “trend upward.”
The Panthers are 3-9 this year, giving Rivera a 9-19 record overall. His teams are 1-12 in games decided by a touchdown or less, after yesterday’s loss to the Chiefs.
Watching Rivera lately, you can tell he spent a lot of time working for Andy Reid. There’s a quiet realization of what’s all but certain to happen to him in a month, but he’s going down pushing all the buttons he knows how, and he’s doing it with a measure of grace.