Panthers taking small steps

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson reportedly is meeting with Ron Rivera on Saturday, but that doesn’t mean the coach’s fate is going to be decided immediately.

Indications are that Richardson wants to hear what lessons Rivera learned from a 7-9 season and what personnel and staff changes he wants to make. In other words, it’s almost like Rivera is interviewing for his job. If he can convince Richardson he can win big next season, he’ll stay. If not, he’ll go.

But I’m not expecting Richardson to make the decision immediately. I think he’ll listen to Rivera and then take a little time to make a decision. But Richardson can’t wait too long, especially if he is going to make a change. Other vacancies are being filled and the pool of candidates is shrinking.

Plus, deciding Rivera’s fate isn’t the only major issue Richardson is facing. He also has to decide on a general manager. Interim general manager Brandon Beane is expected to get an interview. Several personnel executives from around the league (Dave Gettelman, Marc Ross and Lake Dawson) also are likely to be interviewed. And at least one candidate that was not employed by an NFL team this season already interviewed before the season ended.

Richardson has moved very slowly on all this. But at least he and Rivera are finally sitting down to talk. Again, I don’t think that means a decision will come Saturday. But, at least this is a step toward some clarity on who will coach the Panthers in 2013.