Of all the head coach firings so far on Black Monday, one guy has been sitting firmly on the fence all day long. Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera could learn his fate by the end of the day. Some say his fate was sealed when the Panthers fired their general manger earlier this season, or when Cam Newton stopped short of calling Rivera out, but so far Rivera has survived.
But in an interesting twist, as more and more viable and attractive head coaching candidates hit the open market, the less likely it is Rivera will be back with the Panthers next season.
Two names that could seal Rivera’s fate and whet the appetite of Panthers owner Jerry Richardson are Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt.
Smith was fired by the Bears on Black Monday, and Richardson may be intrigued by Smith’s playoff past. That’s an ironic thing to say since the reason the Bears fired Smith was because of his (lack of a) playoff past. But Smith made it to a Super Bowl with Rex Grossman under center, and has been able to demonstrate his ability to be a defensive head coach for years and years.
One area the Panthers would love to improve is on defense.
But another area they’d love to more than improve is offense and Ken Whisenhunt may get a call from Richardson based on the Super Bowl he was able to bring the Cardinals to. Whisenhunt came from the Steelers, where he was a key part of bringing Pittsburgh a Super Bowl in 2006 and his trick play with Antwaan Randal El is still one of the best plays in Super Bowl history.
But when he went to Arizona, he got to a Super Bowl thanks to a quarterback yet again, so if there’s apparently one thing Whisenhunt can do, it’s coach an already talented quarterback. Give him a bad quarterback or a project and he won’t be so great, but give him a Cam Newton and you might see something great there.
The best case scenario for the Panthers is that they can hire both coaches. Whisenhunt can step in as the head coach and Lovie Smith can replace Sean McDermott as the defensive coordinator. One of Smith’s bright spots was having Brian Urlacher on that defense, and Luke Kuelchy has Urlacher-type hype around him.
A lot is going to happen with the head coaching vacancies, and the ones yet to be made. But if one thing is certain, it’s that this offseason is going to be a lot of fun to follow.