After seriously considering the need to replace his head coach through the season and seeking outside counsel on the matter, Panthers owner David Tepper does not intend to fire Ron Rivera after the season, league sources said.
However, the first-year owner, who already pushed for the removal of assistant coaches in-season, does want further changes made to Rivera's staff this offseason, and the nature of that conversation could lead to other moves. Tepper's team could finish the season with eight-straight losses, and while some of that is due to injury, the rapid decline of a team that seemed poised for a potential division title at midseason has troubled the owner. Tepper believes Rivera is fine on game day for the most part, sources said, and wanted Rivera to take over calling the plays on defense, but the overall composition of Rivera's staff has been a problem.
Tepper will discuss the matter candidly with Rivera after the season; should Rivera blanch at all about the scope of changes required, it is at least possible this situation could deteriorate. The Panthers job would be coveted by top candidates if available, which is not lost on ownership.
Tepper paid a record price for the franchise before the season and has received strong feedback on Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney from peers around the league. And Tepper's strong ties to the Steelers organization – where he was previously a minority owner – also bode well for consistency and cohesion, as the Rooney family almost never fires head coaches and it has been among the most successful franchises in all of professional sports.
But the owner's unrest has also not been lost on those throughout the Panthers organization, and the end-of-season exit interviews and meetings will certainly play a significant role in to what degree the franchise is reshaped this winter.