Panthers coach Ron Rivera got a contract extension this offseason, and so did Panthers General Manager Marty Hurney.
And they know that might not mean a thing.
The two of them are under contract through 2020, but the Panthers are in the process of being sold by founder Jerry Richardson, who wanted to make sure his guys got their gold watches on his way out the door. But with the expectation that a new owner will be voted on at the May owner’s meeting, Rivera knows that when they take the field this fall, they’re auditioning for a new boss who has no vested interest in them personally.
Asked if that forced the Panthers into an all-in mindset this year, he acknowledged the elephant in the room.
“Absolutely it does,” Rivera said. “That’s what we have to do, we have to understand that we have to go out and show we’re very capable at what we do and that we can continue to have sustained success. We have to be on top of our game. It does add a little bit of pressure, but that’s the nature of the game. It really is a one year at a time as far as whether you get next year.
“We’ll approach it that way. We’ve been under pressure before and we’ve had to prove it and come out and produce and that’s where we are.”
While that doesn’t necessarily translate into a coming spending spree in free agency (they have around $27 million in cap space after ditching three veteran starters this week), Rivera said the reality that they can’t afford to miss this offseason is even more tangible than other years.
“I think what it does, as far as how we handle it, there’s a sense of ‘Hey, we have to get it right,'” he said.
And while having a turn-key football operation to hand the new owner this summer lends a sense of stability, Rivera is well aware that unless his team produces this fall, he and Hurney could be write-offs for a a new owner who is about to spend well north of $2 billion for a football team.