Last week, we heard that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera would likely remain with the team in 2019, and Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com confirm as much. Both reporters believe there could be changes made to Rivera’s coaching staff, however, and Rapoport expects such changes would be made primarily on the defensive side of the ball. Having Rivera take over defensive play-calling duties earlier this season has already paid dividends, but Rapoport suggests that the team could look to reunite with former DC Steve Wilks if Wilks is fired by the Cardinals (as is expected).
In any event, JLC says that Rivera and new owner David Tepper will have a candid conversation after the season, and if Rivera balks at Tepper’s demand for changes to the composition of Rivera’s staff, then the situation could deteriorate. But for the moment, it appears as if Rivera will be back for his ninth year at the helm, though he will have at least a few different subordinates. Rapoport says that GM Marty Hurney is likely safe as well. David Newton of ESPN.com spoke to Tepper today, but Tepper declined to comment on Rivera’s status.
Meanwhile, as Joe Person of The Athletic writes, the Panthers are expected to bid adieu to at least a couple franchise icons. Julius Peppers is expected to retire, and Thomas Davis has indicated he would like to be back with the club, but his contract is up at the end of the year and there is no guarantee he will be back. Of course, Ryan Kalil announced back in January that this season would be his last, and he has not given any indication that he has changed his mind. While Greg Olsen expects to return in 2019, and though the team is exploring a new deal with safety Eric Reid, there will be significant turnover to a roster that has been one of the league’s oldest over the past several seasons. Person offers his take on what the Panthers should do with their top ten players on expiring contracts.
It has become clear to most everyone, including Person and Newton, that Devin Funchess will not be back with the club in 2019. Funchess is inactive for today’s finale, and his playing time had already decreased significantly in the second half of the season.