Ron Rivera

Fallout From And Reactions To Panthers Firing Dave Gettleman

It has never been more treacherous to be an NFL GM, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. Over the last five seasons, we have seen 15 GMs fired in December/January, one fired in February, and two canned during the season. Now, we can add four spring/summer firings to the list. Scot McCloughan (March 9), Doug Whaley (April 30), John Dorsey (June 22), and Dave Gettleman (July 17) were all fired at unusual times.

Where did things go wrong for the Panthers and Gettleman? And what’s next in Carolina? Here’s the latest:

  • Panthers owner Jerry Richardson remains high on coach Ron Rivera, Jason La Canfora of CBSSports.com tweets. There will be major changes for the Panthers this year, but that apparently won’t extend to the sideline.
  • There were rumblings that all was not well with Gettleman and Richardson after star cornerback Josh Norman was allowed to walk, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. Prior to the 2016 season, the Panthers rescinded the franchise tag from Norman, leading the way for him to sign a gargantuan deal with the Redskins. The Panthers lost one of the game’s best cornerbacks for nothing and their secondary suffered as a direct result. Apparently, the move did not sit well with Richardson and he never completely got over that bold miscalculation from Gettleman.
  • Gettleman took over what was probably the second worst cap situation in the NFL, Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap (on Twitter) opines. Although the 2016 season was difficult, Fitzgerald isn’t sure that the Panthers could have asked for much more during Gettleman’s time in charge. In the 2015 season, the Panthers went 15-1 and reached the Super Bowl.
  • Earlier this summer, DeAngelo Williams said that he would not return to the Panthers if he was given a contract offer. Now that Gettleman is gone, he is singing a different tune. Norman and former Panthers great Steve Smith also seem pretty happy about Monday’s news.

Cole’s Latest: Panthers, Rivera, Watson, King

If the Panthers don’t earn a postseason berth in 2017, head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman could be on the hot seat, according to Jason Cole of Bleacher Report (video link). Carolina, of course, finished the 2016 campaign with a 6-10 record after losing only regular season game and securing a Super Bowl appearance the year prior. Both Rivera and Gettleman are now facing extra pressure, says Cole, which would be one reason the Panthers handed defensive tackle Kawann Short an extension earlier this week, as the club may have wanted to ensure Short was present for offseason activities.

Here’s more from around the league, all courtesy of Cole:

  • Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson displayed a “CEO presence” in predraft meetings with NFL team, and his intangibles are highly impressive to personnel executives, reports Cole (video link), who adds Watson is considered the best leader among the top QB prospects. Listed at 6’2″, 220 pounds, Watson’s size does have some scouts concerned, as they aren’t sure he’ll be able to withstand the pounding of an NFL campaign. For what it’s worth, I sent Watson to Kansas City in PFR’s first 2017 mock draft.
  • Some NFL decision-makers believe Washington cornerback Kevin King is the most overrated player in the 2017 draft, per Cole (video link). King is an impressive physical specimen, especially for a defensive back, as he stands at 6’3″ and 200 pounds. But evaluators don’t believe King’s performance on the field matches his stature. While King has been creeping into the first round of mock drafts — specifically as a possible Seahawks target — one scout said he grades King as no better than a seventh-round choice.
  • As Peter King of TheMMQB.com reported earlier this week, the 49ers and Jets are among the clubs most eager to trade down at the top of the draft, but any such deals could come with a relatively cheap price attached, according to Cole (video link). Outside of Texas A&M edge defender Myles Garrett, the draft doesn’t contain multiple “overwhelming” players, per Cole, while the supply of clubs looking to trade down doesn’t equal the demand of teams hoping to move up.
  • One prospect that could lead to draft-day discussions is Stanford pass rusher Solomon Thomas, whom most NFL clubs consider the “clear” No. 2 player in this year’s class, reports Cole (video link). If the cost of trading up does remain low, several teams might consider moving up the board in order to land Thomas, as such a maneuver would be viewed as an “extraordinary bargain.”

Draft Rumors: McCaffrey, Cook, Melifonwu

Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey visited the Panthers last week, a source tells Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer. NFL executives reportedly believe McCaffrey will be a top-10 selection, and Carolina picks at No. 8. Panthers head coach Ron Rivera recently said no spot is “too high” to draft a running back, and veteran Jonathan Stewart‘s recent one-year extension won’t stop Carolina from bringing in another runner. PFR’s first mock draft has McCaffrey falling a bit farther, however, as we sent him to Philadelphia at No. 14.

Here’s more on the NFL draft:

  • The Bengals are hosting Florida State running back Dalvin Cook, according to Katherine Terrell of ESPN.com. Cincinnati is fully expected to select a running back in this year’s draft, and will likely do so on Day 1 or 2. Incumbent back Giovani Bernard is coming off a torn ACL, while Jeremy Hill hasn’t been effective recently and is entering the final year of his rookie deal. Cook, for his part, topped 1,600 yards and posted 19 touchdowns in each of the last two years with the Seminoles.
  • Missouri defensive end Charles Harris is heading to New York for a visit with the Jets, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Harris, who put up 16 sacks over the past two seasons with the Tigers, probably won’t be in consideration for Gang Green at sixth overall, but he could be an option for the Jets if they trade back (or if he slips to the second round). So far, only the Titans are also known to have met with Harris.
  • The Panthers have visited with Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson, reports Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com (Twitter link). Carolina, of course, signed Matt Kalil to a hefty free agent contract to play left tackle, but the club may need help on the right side, as Michael Oher is still in the concussion protocol three months after the conclusion of the season. Robinson also has the capability to play guard, so the Panthers could draft him as insurance on internal options Trai Turner and Andrew Norwell, each of whom will hit free agency in 2018.
  • Washington safety Budda Baker recently met with the Steelers, as the club announced. Pittsburgh has spent a bevy of recent picks on defensive backs, as Senquez Golson, Artie Burns, and Sean Davis have all joined the team over the past two years. While the Steelers already boast a solid free safety in Mike Mitchell, he’s entering his age-30 campaign and will reach unrestricted free agency next spring.
  • The Dolphins have spent a “significant amount of time” with UConn safety Obi Melifonwu, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Melifonwu has drawn a good amount of interest from around the league during the predraft process, and one team — the Titans — may even view him as a cornerback. Miami recently extended Reshad Jones, but the club could use another safety now that Isa Abdul-Quddus has been cut following a back injury. T.J. McDonald is also in tow, but he’s suspended for the first half of the season.

Coaching Notes: Panthers, Bears, 49ers, Jets

After going 15-1 and losing the Super Bowl last season, the Panthers have taken a huge step back in 2016. The team enters the final week of the season with a 6-9 record, and both the offense and the defense rank towards the bottom half of the league in several team stats.

Despite the struggles, coach Ron Rivera indicated that he isn’t anticipating any changes to his coaching staff…as long as it’s his decision.

“Remember, it’s the same group that was 15-1, same group that led the league in scoring,” Rivera told Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “And in the last five years, we’ve had a top-10 defense. So as I look it and break things down, yeah, there’s some things that we have to work on and change. You guys heard me talk about evolving. We have to.”

As Darin Gantt of ProFootballTalk.com points out, Rivera hasn’t stuck to similar promises in the past. For instance, the team relieved special teams coach Richard Rodgers of his duties following the 2014 campaign. Gantt believes that offensive coordinator Mike Shula and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey could find themselves on the hot seat.

Let’s take a look at some other coaching notes from around the NFL…

  • Things haven’t gone as planned during John Fox‘s second season with the Bears. The team is looking to avoid their worst 16-game record in franchise history, and blame will naturally lie on the head coach. Rich Campbell of the Chicago Tribune writes that chairman George McCaskey will likely wait until the end of the season to make any decisions on his coaching staff’s fate. Campbell notes that the organization waited until the 2014 offseason to fire general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman.
  • Eric Branch of SFGate.com wonders if head coach Chip Kelly‘s unwillingness to adjust his fast-paced gameplan could ultimately lead to his demise with the 49ers. As the writer notes, the coach wasn’t necessarily put in a position to succeed with a lack of talent on the roster. However, Campbell believes the coach’s devotion to his gameplan could come up during offseason discussions with CEO Jed York and a new general manager (assuming Trent Baalke is fired). For what it’s worth, Kelly hasn’t indicated that he’s willing to change his ways. “I think we always look at everything on a weekly basis trying to see how we can improve,” Kelly said following his team’s overtime loss to the Jets in early December. “You look at the game yesterday: It’s about making one more play than the other team. It’s not like we’re getting taken to the woodshed and don’t have an opportunity to compete and play.”
  • Jets head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan are expected to receive a “mulligan” from owner Woody Johnson for the team’s subpar performance this season, writes ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. The writer acknowledges that it’s been a tough year for the organization, but he also notes that it’d be a knee-jerk reaction to fire the tandem after only two seasons.

Coaching Rumors: Payton, Rams, Gruden

Despite rumors to the contrary, one source tells ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett there is no indication the Saints are more willing to part ways with Sean Payton now than they were in the past. That same source also refuted the notion that morale is low in New Orleans because of speculation over Payton’s future. Regardless, you can expect the Payton buzz to continue for a while. There’s now talk that Payton has “sincere interest” in the Rams’ opening.

Here’s a roundup of the latest coaching rumors:

  • Bills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn and Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter are two to watch in the Rams‘ coaching search, Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News tweets.
  • There are reasons why Jon Gruden does and doesn’t make sense for the Rams, Mike Florio of PFT writes. Gruden has star power, offensive know-how, and relationships with both COO Kevin Demoff and Washington exec Bruce Allen, who could be a GM candidate for the team. He could also help the team attract Raiders fans in the area. Conversely, one could argue that Gruden was overrated as a coach since he won a Super Bowl with a defense built by Tony Dungy and run the highly-respected Monte Kiffin. Gruden also doesn’t have a rep as a player-friendly coach.
  • Panthers coach Ron Rivera has been mentioned as a possibility for the Rams‘ job, but his agent tells Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer there hasn’t been any contact between Rivera and Los Angeles. “There hasn’t been any contact,” agent Frank Bauer said. “Ron’s super happy where he’s at.” Of course, that doesn’t mean a whole lot. The Rams could still wait until after the season to reach out to Rivera and, even if they have already, his agent would never publicly confirm an act of tampering. If there is mutual interest between the Rams and Rivera this spring, L.A. would still have to negotiate a trade with the Panthers.
  • Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh won’t be returning to the NFL in 2017, but he could eventually be back, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (link via PFT). If and when he goes back to the NFL, Rapoport says he could be a match for the Bears. Meanwhile, some league insiders have speculated to PFT that Harbaugh could eventually coach the Colts, reuniting him with Andrew Luck.

Sean Payton Has “Sincere Interest” In Rams’ Head Coaching Vacancy

Another day, another big name being mentioned as a potential candidate for the Rams’ head coach opening. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that Saints head coach Sean Payton is monitoring the Rams’ vacancy with “sincere interest.” The reporter clarifies that a potential Rams/Saints trade is neither “imminent” nor “likely,” but a deal is “possible.” For the Rams to pull off such a move, Payton would have to be the organization’s “overwhelming No. 1” favorite for the position.

Sean Payton (vertical)As Rapoport writes, Payton has openly expressed interest in coaching on the West Coast, especially since his daughter lives in California. The head coach had previously shown some interst in the former 49ers and Chargers openings. Payton ultimately signed a five-year extension with the Saints that will pay him around $10MM a year. After he announced the new contract, Payton said that he couldn’t envision himself coaching elsewhere.

Of course, the extension doesn’t mean that Payton is guaranteed to stick around New Orleans. The 52-year-old hasn’t led the Saints to the playoffs since 2013, and Rapoport reports that some within the organization are starting to tire of Payton’s unwillingness to commit to his current gig longterm. In fact, we heard last week that the Saints could look to trade their long-time coach. If the coach decides that he wants out of New Orleans, the front office won’t hold him “hostage,” according to Rapoport.

Payton does have an impressive head coaching record of 92-64 during his 11 seasons in New Orleans (he was suspended for the 2012 campaign), and he led the team to a Super Bowl championship in 2009.

Despite the Payton news, Rapoport tweets that the Rams aren’t necessarily looking to “make a splash” with the hiring. The last time they hired a big-Ron Rivera (vertical)name coach, they signed Jeff Fisher… and we all know how that turned out.

Meanwhile, ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter echoes that the Rams aren’t necessarily looking at high-profile names for their head coaching vacancy. According to the report, the Rams are eyeing Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance JosephBills offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn,
Patriots
offensive coordinators Josh McDaniels, and Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. We learned earlier this week that the Rams (along with the Jaguars) would have interest in Shanahan.

Rapoport throws another name into the ring (via Twitter): Panthers coach Ron Rivera. The writer notes that Rivera would be a natural fit considering the Rams’ young roster and Los Angeles’ Hispanic population. Of course, Rapoport admits that a Rams/Panthers trade would be rather complicated to pull off.

Other names that have been mentioned for the opening are Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and ESPN analyst Jon Gruden. Both of those potential candidates denied having any interest in the gig.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Saints, Short, Panthers

The Saints will ultimately have to choose between kickers Kai Forbath and Connor Barth. Unfortunately, as Evan Woodbury of NOLA.com notes, making that decision is easier said than done.

The duo have incredibly similar career numbers, and their performances during OTAs have also been rather even. Therefore, coach Sean Payton can’t solely rely on the raw numbers to make his final decision.

“These two guys are almost identical all the way back through their college years,” Payton said.

The two will have an opportunity to separate themselves during training camp, but so far, the organization is content with what they’ve seen from the pair.

“Both have experience and we feel like we’ve got a real good opportunity to come away from training camp with a good measuring stick,” Payton said. “We feel good about the way both of them are hitting it.”

Let’s check out some more notes from the NFC South…

  • As RosterResource.com shows, the Saints‘ running back depth chart is rather packed right now. Featuring Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Tim Hightower, Travaris Cadet, Daniel Lasco and Marcus Murphy, coach Payton could have some disgruntled players if he ultimately keeps all six running backs. “I would be disappointed if somebody wasn’t a little ticked off,” Hightower told the Associated Press. “I’m a competitor. I don’t want to come off the football field.”
  • The Eagles recently signed defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to a six-year, $103MM deal, including $55.5MM in guaranteed money. As Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer writes, this could complicate negotiations with Panthers defensive lineman Kawann Short. The 27-year-old sat out the majority of OTAs in pursuit of a new contract, although he did attend the mandatory minicamp earlier this week. For what it’s worth, Cox and Short finished with similar numbers in 2014, and Short actually rated better in Pro Football Focus’ ranking of interior defenders (subscription required).
  • The Panthers certainly recognize the difficulties of finalizing a Short extension, as coach Ron Rivera indicated the other day. “I heard about that one,” he said. “(Someone) wrote that it’s going to complicate things. And it probably will. So we’ll see how things unfold.”
  • After having seen a breakdown in contract talks with former Panthers (and current Redskins) cornerback Josh Norman, Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports sees similarities in the Short negotiations. While the writer doesn’t necessarily envision the team letting go of another starter, the presence of first-round pick Vernon Butler could make Short expendable.

Panthers Extend Ron Rivera

5:28pm: Rivera has actually signed a completely new three-year deal worth $19.5MM, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, who adds that the Panthers head coach can earn an extra $3MM via incentives. Additionally, Carolina bumped up the pay of the rest of the football staff (Twitter links).

3:13pm: The Panthers have given Ron Rivera a one-year contract extension that will pay him more than $6MM a year, a league source tells Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. Rivera is now under contract through the 2018 season and is now among the league’s highest-paid coaches. The team has since confirmed the extension via press release. Ron Rivera

Rivera’s extension was actually completed earlier this offseason but the team did not announce it, Person hears. Rivera, who succeeded John Fox as the Panthers’ head coach in 2011, has posted a sub-.500 record in three of his five seasons with the team. However, his overall regular-season mark in Carolina is 47-32-1, and the team has won the NFC South three times in a row, earning the division title in 2014 despite a 7-8-1 record.

It was an easy decision,” GM Dave Gettleman said in a statement. “Ron has worked extremely hard and we are thrilled with our current direction. Mr. Richardson has established a great culture here and Ron is a big part of that.”

Following a 2013 campaign that saw the Panthers finish 12-4 and earned Rivera AP Coach of the Year honors, Carolina locked up the coach to a three-year extension believed to be worth north of $4MM per season. The deal keeps Rivera under contract through 2017, but after this year’s NFC championship, the Panthers have extended the relationship beyond that with a pay bump.

Rivera’s contract puts him in the top 10 of the NFL’s highest-paid coaches. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll ($8MM+), Saints coach Sean Payton ($8MM), and Patriots coach Bill Belichick ($7.5MM) are the league’s highest earners. Rivera’s new salary puts him in the same ~$6MM/year group as Packers coach Mike McCarthy, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Panthers, Ron Rivera Discussing Extension

Following a season in which he led the Panthers to a 15-1 regular-season record and an appearance in the Super Bowl, head coach Ron Rivera appears to be in line for a raise. According to Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers have reached out to Rivera to start working on a contract extension.Ron Rivera

Rivera, who succeeded John Fox as the Panthers’ head coach in 2011, has posted a sub-.500 record in three of his five seasons with the team. However, his overall regular-season mark in Carolina is 47-32-1, and the team has won the NFC South three times in a row, earning the division title in 2014 despite a 7-8-1 record.

Following a 2013 campaign that saw the Panthers finish 12-4 and earned Rivera AP Coach of the Year honors, Carolina locked up the coach to a three-year extension believed to be worth north of $4MM per season. The deal keeps Rivera under contract through 2017, but after this year’s NFC championship, the Panthers would like to extend the relationship beyond that, and give their head coach another raise.

In spite of the Panthers’ 2015 success, Rivera will benefit from keeping both his offensive and defensive coordinators for at least one more year. Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott interviewed for the Browns’ and Buccaneers’ head coaching jobs, while offensive coordinator Mike Shula turned down at least one opportunity to interview for a head coaching position, a source tells Person.

Rivera is the second NFC South coach rumored this week to be working on a deal. Sean Payton suggested on Thursday that he’s moving closer to an extension with the Saints.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

2015 NFL Award Winners

The NFL announced this season’s award winners at last night’s “NFL Honors” event. The complete list can be found here, but the highlights are as follows:

AP Most Valuable Player:
Cam Newton
, QB, Panthers

AP Offensive Player of the Year:
Newton

AP Defensive Player of the Year:
J.J. Watt, DE, Texans

Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year:
Jameis Winston, QB, Buccaneers

AP Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Todd Gurley, RB, Rams

AP Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Marcus Peters, CB, Chiefs

AP Coach of the Year:
Ron Rivera, Panthers

AP Comeback Player of the Year:
Eric Berry, S, Chiefs

Walter Payton Man of the Year:
Anquan Boldin, WR, 49ers

2016 NFL Hall of Fame Class:
Brett Favre, QB; Kevin Greene, LB; Marvin Harrison, WR; Orlando Pace, OL; Tony Dungy, coach; Ken Stabler, QB; Dick Stanfel, OL; Eddie DeBartolo, owner