Time for Ron Rivera and the Carolina Panthers to Part Ways


When the obituary is written on Ronald Eugene Rivera it will tell the story of an All American linebacker at Cal, a Super Bowl champion on the vaunted Chicago Bear 1985 defense, and a successful assistant coach. He will be always be remembered as the first Puerto Rican to win a Super Bowl, and in a competitive and frequently combative industry, he was well liked.

What will not be highlighted are eight interviews for head coaching positions that failed, and a ninth that got him hired in Carolina, only to sputter through what will be two full seasons at most, or perhaps as few as 25 games.

Sunday in Charlotte, the guy that got fired leading to Rivera's hiring beat the Panthers in every way possible. John Fox, who was unemployed for about for about five minutes when the Broncos scooped him up, reminded Panthers fans and management that sometimes the status quo beats the unknown.

Denver rolled Carolina 36-14 in a game that featured a Hall of Fame QB against a guy who isn't sure whether he belongs right now, and a veteran coaching staff with at least three and maybe more members who will get their chance as NFL head coaches playing chess against what appears to be a hesitant, over-matched group spending a lot of time looking over their shoulder waiting to hear bad news.

Fox, who took over George Seifert's 1-15 mess and two years later was in the Super Bowl with Jake Delhomme leading the way, is now 15-11 with the Broncos including a playoff win with Tim Tebow at QB. Winners of four straight, the Broncos are well on their way to a second straight AFC West title. Denver will probably face only one playoff team over the last seven weeks of the regular season and will contend for a first round playoff bye.

The Panthers are 8-17 since Rivera took over with just one victory against a team with a winning record. They are 1-10 since the start of last season in games decided by seven points or less. If he is around to see it, Rivera will face a coach that should have been considered for his job two years ago, Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano. If Rivera is employed in two weeks, lame duck Eagle coach Andy Reid may be interviewing for his job across the sideline from him.


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