Keeping Ron Rivera is a Huge Mistake by Carolina Panthers

Nick KostoraContributor IIIJanuary 5, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 23:  Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers reacts to a call against the Oakland Raiders during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The Carolina Panthers have decided to stick with Ron Rivera as head coach, and that mistake is going to prove costly.

Rivera has been mediocre at best in his two seasons roaming the sidelines, starting each season with a 2-8 record. His 7-3 record in the month of December does little to hide the fact that those games have been meaningless.

This is a Panthers team with too much talent to be out of the playoff picture by mid-November. Now, owner Jerry Richardson shows an acceptance of mediocrity by sticking with a coach who has done little to advance the franchise in a positive direction.

Even worse, Richardson has hampered any prospective general-manager candidates by forcing a head coach on them and leaving little wiggle room to create the roster they want.

Carolina will be short two draft picks in April (third and seventh round) and is sitting around $16 million over the salary cap. Sure, having Cam Newton at quarterback and talent on both sides of the ball will be intriguing, but the best bait the Panthers could have thrown out to GM candidates was the ability to pick a head coach.

Does anyone truly believe that Rivera is going to lead Carolina to a Super Bowl title? Richardson may, but the greater likelihood is that he did not want to pay off Rivera with two years left on his contract.

Which is a real shame because this offseason has featured a smorgasbord of great coaching options. Names like Jon Gruden, Chip Kelly, Andy Reid, Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt all became available and could have all made an impact in Carolina.

Perhaps Rivera will be able to correct the mistakes he has made and turn the Panthers into a playoff contender. A quick start to the 2013 season would reverse any and all questions that will be thrown at Rivera's re-signing, but he has already been given a chance.

The NFL is a "what have you done for me lately" league, and Rivera has not done much. His leash will be short, and it will be tough for the locker room and the fanbase to rally behind him for another season.