What Garrett can learn from Ron Rivera

IRVING, Texas – On Tuesday the Carolina Panthers handed coach Ron Rivera a three-year contract extension through 2017. According to reports he will make between $4-$5 million a year.

The point of this post isn’t to suggest Jason Garrett, who is entering the final year of his contract as Dallas Cowboys head coach, should receive an extension. I believe Jerry Jones makes a good point about “lame duck,” status when he said at the Senior Bowl he’s seen plenty of coaches not get it done when they have multiple years on their contracts.

For those who believe the coach lacks authority when he is on the last year of his deal, I’d remind them that this is the Cowboys and we know where most of the authority lies. Despite three straight 8-8 finishes and painful Week 17 losses that kept them from making the postseason, Garrett has maintained the locker room.

Has it been perfect? Absolutely not. But it’s not perfect anywhere. Players on the most successful teams will find a way to complain about the coach, just as any employee in any field will find a way to complain about a boss. It’s just the way it is.

The point of this post is to use Rivera as an example for Garrett to emulate, albeit perhaps a year too late.

Entering 2013 Rivera had a 13-22 record as Panthers coach. In his first year, Carolina started 2-8 and finished 6-10. In 2012, the Panthers started 1-6 but finished 7-9, winning their final four games. In 2013, the Panthers were 1-3 and heading nowhere.

Rivera, who interviewed for the Cowboys’ head coaching job in 2007, kept things together, the Panthers started to win, then they started to believe and finished 12-4 and made the playoffs.

He went from the hot seat – remember he was working under a new general manager – to earning a three-year extension.

Cam Newton made the Pro Bowl. Steve Smith remains a top-flight receiver. Luke Kuechly is a terrific linebacker. Defensive lineman Greg Hardy had a career-high 15 sacks.

Little was expected of the Panthers. They were No. 23 in the ESPN Power Rankings in the preseason and finished the regular season at No. 3. The Cowboys started the year at No. 20 in the rankings and finished No. 17.

Little should be expected of the Cowboys in 2014, although we know somehow Jerry Jones will believe they will be contenders by the time training camp kicks off in Oxnard, Calif. Expectations will be raised by the return of injured players like Sean Lee and Tony Romo, the improvement from a Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray and the excitement of new draft picks.

But if Garrett is looking for hope for his personal cause, something he would never admit to publicly, then what happened to Rivera offers him a chance.