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Carolina Panthers fire Head Coach Ron Rivera, kickstart 2020 offseason moves

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While many teams still playing out their 2019 fortunes, the Panthers got the jump on their 2020 agenda by firing their head coach today. How could that affect the Los Angeles Rams and the rest of the NFL?

Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton and HC Ron Rivera during Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos, Feb. 7, 2016.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton and HC Ron Rivera during Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos, Feb. 7, 2016.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Carolina Panthers fired Head Coach Ron Rivera today just short of nine years in charge.

It’s a bittersweet low for Panthers fans to say goodbye to the coach that took them to the Super Bowl just less than four years ago, but it was time. The news dropped just hours after this post at Cat Scratch Reader, the SB Nation team site for fans of the Panthers, posted this missive calling for the firing of...well, “everyone.”

Consider this the unofficial start of the 2020 offseason.

It obviously opens the first opportunity on the coaching carousel, but it also might signal an end to QB Cam Newton’s time as the franchise QB in Charlotte.

Coaching carousel

The college game was the first to get going on coaching changes with the regular season over. The most notable, and most surprising, move was Washington Huskies HC Chris Petersen stepping down abruptly. Florida State’s firing of HC Willie Taggart preceded it and perhaps too early, but that obviously creates a huge opening that could affect things as well.

But at the NFL level, the opening in Charlotte offers a blank canvas with a relatively soft ownership situation in new Owner David Tepper. Opposed to say a Dallas Cowboys opening at season’s end, the opening in Charlotte would be an inviting sell for any experience level. It might not be attractive enough to land top candidates right now, but I suppose the lack of constraint could be enough to get anyone to commit if they’re given the latitude and level of responsibility to enact a three-year plan on their terms.

As for Rivera, he’ll be an attractive defensive mind. I’m certain he’ll be lobbed around as a potential 2020 defensive coordinator, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Los Angeles Rams dropped as a potential landing spot should current Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips opt to retire. Rivera would be a fine external candidate if the Rams opt not to promote from within.

QB changes

In all likelihood, the Panthers will now move on from Cam. He’s only under contract for 2020, and the Panthers can release him at penalty of just $2m in dead cap while opening up more than $19m in savings to use.

From a Panthers perspective, they’ve got a few more games to see if backup QB Kyle Allen can be a holdover into the next coaching era. They’ve lost four of the last five with some very inconsistent showings from Allen, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they give rookie QB Will Grier a shot down the stretch to see if maybe he’s more viable as a stopgap. It’s a move some Panthers fans are already calling for.

As for Cammy Cam, he would join a wild 2020 free agency crop at quarterback. He’ll be an attractive candidate, but his health status will be paramount with the variety of ailments he’s endured in recent years. As for the rest of the market, we already had elder statesmen in Los Angeles Chargers QB Philip Rivers and New York Giants QB Eli Manning who are on expiring deals. New England Patriots QB Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees are both on contracts that can be voided. Saints QB Teddy Bridgewater, Washington Redskins QB Case Keenum and Tennessee Titans QB Ryan Tannehill might all offer veteran stopgap solutions. And Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston and Titans QB Marcus Mariota are likely viewed as reclamation projects for their new teams.

I suppose Cam could be viewed as a backup option, but if he’s healthy he’s among the better starting quarterbacks in the league. If he’s not healthy, why would he make sense as a backup? It’s a strange conundrum.


It’s going to be a wild offseason for coaching and personnel moves. As always, the moves from the other 31 teams always have the potential to have a direct impact on the Rams’ fortunes.

Time will tell if today’s news ends up changing the course of the Rams in the years to come.