As the Panthers try to end a six-game losing streak that wiped out a strong 6-2 start to the season, many league observers are trying to figure out what will happen to coach Ron Rivera.
Already on the job for eight years, Rivera now works for a new boss, and no one knows what owner David Tepper will do, now that a promising season has fallen apart.
Some think Tepper will make a change. Some think he’ll give Rivera another year. Yes, Rivera has two years left on his deal, but it would be peanuts in comparison to the purchase price for Tepper to pay Rivera to walk away.
With two games left and the Panthers clinging to mathematical postseason possibilities, it would be premature for Tepper to make a decision now. But he surely has considered his various options, regardless of whether Tepper pulls the trigger.
As it will be for every other team contemplating a coaching change, the final two games will be a factor. The Panthers could make the playoffs. Even if they don’t, they could finish strong with a pair of wins, ending up at .500. That necessarily would create a different vibe entering the offseason.
Another big factor will be whether Tepper can upgrade. Rivera quietly has become one of the best coaches in the league. Before giving up on a guy who is closing in on a decade of experience and who has taken the team to a Super Bowl, Tepper had better be sure he’ll end up with someone better — especially since many believe the Buccaneers are poised to pounce on Rivera, if he becomes available.