Ron Rivera had an eye-opening news conference Monday afternoon in the wake of the firing of Panther general manager Marty Hurney in which he sounded to me like he was strongly considering the possibility of firing at least one assistant coach.
Asked directly about that possibility, Rivera said: “This is a process that we’re going to go through as far as an evaluation and we’ll see how things go. If that’s what has to happen eventually, then yeah -- maybe that’s what happens. Do we cut players? Yeah. If we have to, maybe that’s what we’ll have to do.”
Everything is on the table now (and here's my Tuesday newspaper column about it). Owner Jerry Richardson firing Hurney – who he was very close to – has made that obvious. I asked Rivera if he felt safe in his own job and he said: “Yeah, I do. I mean I’m here. And so I’m going to continue to work and do the best I can and we’ll go from there.”
But Rivera also said in response to another question about whether he felt like he was coaching for his job: “I always feel like I’m coaching for my job. It’s just like when I was a player. I was drafted in the second round in 1984. For nine years, I came into that facility in Chicago, wondering if I was going to get cut. This is no different. I come to work like I did as a player, and that’s to do the best I can.”
After this season, Rivera has two years left on the four-year, $11.2-million contract he signed in January 2011.
The Panthers are trying to change things. They buried DeAngelo Williams on the bench Sunday, and that sounded like it might well continue. Chris Gamble was placed on injured reserve Monday with a shoulder injury, so another cornerback will be signed soon.
Rivera, as usual, tried to put the best face on the situation. “If I’m being overly optimistic, well, that’s my job, and I’m going to take it to the limit,” Rivera said.
But it was obvious this has been a very hard day for him. Hurney hired Rivera, and the two had developed a close friendship, and now Hurney was gone. Rivera knows he has to be skating on somewhat thin ice now. As I noted in the previous blog, Richardson is 76 years old and not known for his patience.
So Rivera is coaching for his job, yes, just like the players are playing for theirs. The Hurney domino is a very high-profile one, but it is only the first to fall.