Panthers need to make call on Rivera now

One way or the other, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson already should have made his decision on the future of coach Ron Rivera.

I know there’s a school of thought out there that Richardson first will hire a general manager who then will make a decision on Rivera. But that could put the Panthers at a huge disadvantage.

Although the Panthers fired general manager Marty Hurney in October, there have been no indications they’re ready to announce his replacement. It’s likely they want to talk to some people that are currently employed by other teams. They can’t talk to those people until the regular season ends and if the people they want to talk to are employed by playoff teams, the wait is even longer.

Richardson isn’t in a position where he can afford to wait to make the call on Rivera. On Monday, teams will start firing coaches. Speculation is that there could be as many as eight or 10 open jobs around the league.

They’ll get filled quickly. It’s a game of musical chairs and waiting to hire a general manager could leave the Panthers without a seat if Rivera isn’t the coach the new general manager wants.

Rivera has given Richardson at least some of the upswing the owner wanted to see. The Panthers have won their past three games.

Maybe that’s enough for Richardson to decide to give Rivera a third year. Maybe it’s not enough.

Either way, Richardson has to make his call public very soon. If he waits to let the new general manager decide Rivera’s fate and the general manager wants a new coach, the best candidates already will be employed elsewhere.