Fewell, Rivera or Arians: Who is the Next Head Coach of the Carolina Panthers?

Eric QuackenbushSenior Analyst IJanuary 5, 2011

Bruce Arians, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bruce Arians, Pittsburgh SteelersNFL Photos/Getty Images

With so many head coaches in the NFL receiving their "pink slips" this past season, coaching vacancies among various teams have become somewhat common in the league's landscape.

The San Francisco 49ers recently released their head coach Mike Singletary, while the Oakland Raiders parted ways with head coach Tom Cable. That last one doesn't take me by surprise. It seems to me that Raiders owner Al Davis doesn't like to feel left out when other teams are parting ways with coaching staffs.

Also gone are Eric Mangini, formerly of the Cleveland Browns, and Brad Childress, who made a late-season departure from the Minnesota Vikings.

Of all these names being tossed around, one team and coach aren't as common to hear in the news of coaching changes. At least not in the last nine years: Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox is currently without a team. So, too, is his coaching staff.

Some of the names being mentioned as candidates of interest of the Panthers are mostly defensive coordinators. However, there is one name that has come up that has intrigued me. In total, there are at least three coordinators whom I am most interested in seeing the Panthers consider for the head coaching job.

Interestingly enough, in Tuesday's presser, Panthers' general manager Marty Hurney stated that the team has not been in touch with Stanford's Jim Harbaugh and had no intention of considering a collegiate head coach for the job.

With the great amount of success the Panthers saw from an NFL assistant-turned-head coach, he felt there was no need to go in a different direction when seeking new candidates.

Moments earlier, team owner Jerry Richardson stated that Fox had failed to put together back-to-back winning seasons, only reaching the playoffs in three of his nine seasons. That's a 33 percent success rate of getting a team into the playoffs. I don't know about where Hurney hails from, but that doesn't amount to a great deal of success where I come from.

In the press conference, Richardson also stated that he felt it was in the younger players' best interest that he force Fox's hand to play them, as he would have very little veteran depth remaining and would have no choice but to play a lot of rookies and inexperienced players.

I can certainly appreciate and understand the logic in that, but then why force the head coach to go through what he (Richardson) knew would be a meaningless season? If a coach and his staff were unable to repeat a winning season in 2009 with 20-of-22 starting athletes returning to the team, what would make him believe that Fox and the coaching staff would be able to harvest success from a team of youngsters?

In all fairness for his integrity, Fox should have been let go at the conclusion of the 2009 season. To save face, Richardson should have been more judicial in cutting ties with Fox.

However, his health may have played a factor in the decision of keeping Fox for his last year, and after losing around $12 million on a quarterback who plays for the Cleveland Browns now, I understand the logic of "saving" money by retaining Fox instead of paying him to stay home.

So let's take a look at my three favorite candidates the Panthers have requested teams' permission to interview.

Ron Rivera, San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator

I'm actually quite surprised that Rivera hasn't been offered a head coaching position yet! The defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers has been a virtual mastermind at building the defense into the most prominent in the league.

Formerly the defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, Rivera built a middle-of-the-road Chicago defense into a top-10 defense from 2006-2008. After he was released from the Bears, he accomplished the same feat in San Diego, where he took a bunch of no-name players in a mediocre defense and established a first-place pass defense and a second-place run defense.

The time for Rivera to test the head coaching waters is long overdue, and team owners are doing him a disservice by passing over him.

However, Rivera isn't my top choice as head coaching candidate for the Panthers.

Perry Fewell, New York Giants Defensive Coordinator

Not the No. 1 candidate on my list, considering the Giants defense has yet to really jell like it did in its Super Bowl XLII season. But to be fair, this was only Fewell's first season as the defensive coordinator for the Giants.

What I like about Fewell is his intensity and propensity to motivate players. With a team as young as the Panthers have, motivation will be a huge factor involved with any success they are to experience.

Bruce Arians, Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Coordinator

My third—and actually first-ranked—candidate is this man from Pittsburgh. Ironically, he's from the same team Jerry Richardson has desired modeling his team after since its inception.

Bruce Arians has been the offensive coordinator for the Steelers since he was named to the position in 2007 by head coach Mike Tomlin. Prior to that, Arians was the wide receivers coach, a position he held since the 2004 season.

Arians, as head coach for the Panthers, could implement some of his play designs from the Steelers into the Panthers playbook. He would not only be beneficial to a young offense, but especially to the youngsters at the receiver position. Arians was also the first quarterback coach of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

Arians would bring a wealth of offensive knowledge and background to the table in Carolina. Consider this: From 1981 to 1982, he coached the running backs at the University of Alabama under head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant.

There's no doubt in my mind that Arians makes the greatest argument to become the next head coach for Carolina. I am also confident he will hire the right staff for the job at hand. A former offensive coordinator-turned-head coach will also bring a new buzz about the locker room and media. There's something about former defensive coordinators that brings about a certain bore and predictability to the offensive side of a team.

Other candidates potentially in the mix: Arizona Cardinals offensive line/assistant head coach Russ Grimm, Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

For more on this discussion, check out the latest podcast at Cat Crave Radio, Episode 143!

UPDATE: Russ Grimm is officially no longer a candidate for the head coaching position. In addition, defensive line coach Brian Baker in same capacity and as assistant head coach at the University of North Carolina. --Austin Penny


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