Richardson set to evaluate Rivera, up-and-down season

jperson@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 4, 2013 

Ron Rivera’s week of waiting will end Saturday when the Carolina Panthers’ second-year head coach is scheduled to meet with owner Jerry Richardson.

Rivera has been in limbo since the Panthers ended their season with a 44-38 win at New Orleans on Sunday. While seven teams fired their coaches Monday, Rivera spent the week in Charlotte meeting with his team, conducting exit interviews with players and preparing for his sit-down with Richardson.

Richardson has made no public comments since firing general manager Marty Hurney in October, the move that put Rivera’s future in jeopardy. According to Rivera, Richardson told him he wanted to see the team trend upward over the final 10 weeks of the season.

The Panthers (7-9) won five of their last six games, including their final four in a row, to finish in second place in the NFC South, a game better than Rivera’s first season. Despite tying a team record by placing 18 players on injured reserve – including five starters – the Panthers were 10th in the league in total defense, and 12th in total offense.

Rivera met with Richardson at least once a week during the season, saying the 76-year-old owner has been supportive.

Rivera, 13-19 in his first head-coaching job, has two years remaining on a four-year deal worth a reported $11.2 million. If he is back in Charlotte next season, Rivera likely would be asked to make staff changes.

He also would be working with a new GM.

The Panthers are slated to begin interviewing GM candidates Monday, with a pair of New York Giants executives still considered to be the leaders. Giants senior pro personnel analyst Dave Gettleman and director of college scouting Marc Ross have been linked to Carolina since November when the Panthers announced they had hired former Giants GM Ernie Accorsi to serve as a consultant.

But multiple team and league sources have said Richardson will decide Rivera’s future, not the next GM.

Saturday’s meeting will go a long way in determining Rivera’s fate.

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