What does the future hold for Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers?
The most successful string of seasons in Carolina Panthers football history have come with Ron Rivera on the sideline. Throughout his tenure the team has won three divisional titles, been to the playoffs four times and made the franchise’s second ever Super Bowl appearance.
However, since owner David Tepper purchased the team from Jerry Richardson, Carolina is just 12-14 and coming off one of their worst losses in recent memory. After being dismantled by divisional rival Atlanta at home on Sunday, losing 29-3, the Panthers future is uncertain.
Beginning at quarterback, former No. 1 overall pick and the franchise leader throughout Rivera’s tenure – Cam Newton has just one year remaining on his current contract. Increasing health issues, including a foot injury suffered during preseason play that inevitably sidelined him for the majority of 2019, is just one concern. Carolina could recoup $19 million in cap space by electing to go in a new direction but parting ways with a former league MVP is also a risky decision.
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The Panthers finished 7-9 last season after winning six of their first eight games but seven consecutive losses derailed any hope for the playoffs. Rebounding from an 0-2 start this year, Carolina has now lost two in a row and faces a difficult slate down the stretch. Currently sitting at an even 5-5, finishing with a worse overall record this season is definitely not out of the question.
Regardless, Tepper’s patience is sure to be tested. Does he give another coach an opportunity with Newton for one final season? Does he continue with both returning in hopes of getting a year of full health? Should he part ways from both and start fresh? The available options cover both ends of the spectrum and legitimate arguments can be made for seemingly any decision.
Right now, a road trip to face another divisional rival in New Orleans is on deck and regardless of the outcome there’s still plenty of questions to answer. Expect Tepper to forge his own path moving forward and truly put his fingerprint on this franchise over the next few months.
As a former minority owner in the Pittsburgh Steelers, he’s well aware patience can pay off but also has to be curious about what a fresh start may bring to the Queen City.