(UPDATE: Panther coach Ron Rivera is now scheduled to meet with team owner Jerry Richardson Saturday -- following that meeting, Rivera's fate will likely be decided).
So while we're waiting for a decision on Ron Rivera, here are four quick thoughts:
1) Rivera better not be twisting in the wind here. It's a cruel and unnecessary punishment if team owner Jerry Richardson is going to fire Rivera now, several days after the season, or allow a new GM to fire him after leaving the coach hanging out there for so long. That's not the way you fire a coach and a good man. Seven other NFL teams fired coaches, and they all did it the day after the season -- the so-called "Black Monday" -- which is the right way to do it. You cut somebody loose and then give them a chance to get in the mix for other jobs (same goes for the assistant coaches, as staffs fill up quickly in the NFL).
2) Given that Richardson hasn't fired Rivera yet and the team owner is an honorable man, I tend to think the longer this goes, the safer Rivera probably is. In the past three instances where he's fired coaches, Richardson has done it far more quickly than this. He fired both Dom Capers and George Seifert on "Black Monday" -- on the day after the 1998 and the 2001 seasons, respectively. Richardson announced two days before the 2010 season even ended that John Fox and his coaching staff weren't going to be retained (and that move was long expected that season).
3) The wild card in this, of course, is that the Panthers are searching for a general manager. My colleague Tom Sorensen believes the new GM should decide Rivera's fate, not Richardson. I respectfully disagree. I think Rivera has earned his shot at a third year, and that Richardson should tell the new GM he and Rivera will work together for one year, and then, if there are no playoffs in 2013, the new GM is free to hire whomever he wants. The new GM is going to have enough to do anyway given that the Panthers find themselves in salary-cap jail once again, and so soon after the contract purge of 2010.
4) In the meantime, the Panthers' official "cone of silence" is doing no one any good. If Rivera is going to be retained, the Panthers need to say so. If the new GM hire is going to come first, they need to say so. And if Rivera was going to be fired, they needed to have already said that on Monday.