- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Carolina Panthers have standards. They reached the playoffs in four of the last six seasons entering this year, including a Super Bowl run in 2015. Over that stretch they posted a 15-win season, a 12-win season and an 11-win season before coming in at 7-9 last year.

But some things simply can’t be tolerated … like a home loss to the 2-9 Washington Redskins. As a result, Panthers coach Ron Rivera is now former Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

Carolina didn’t wait until Black Monday, the day after the regular season ends. They fired Rivera two days after Week 13 concluded, sending him to join former Washington coach Jay Gruden on the paid-leave/never-to-return list. At least they’re never-to-return to their previous employers.

“Absolutely, my intent is to coach again,” Rivera told reporters Wednesday. “I love coaching. Not just coaching because it’s about winning football games, but coaching because you have an opportunity to impact young men and people. And that’s what I want to do.”

Making a difference in people’s lives is an admirable goal.



But if sufficient victories aren’t a byproduct, then the nonprofit arena might be better for such pursuits.

Aside from a few exceptions (paging Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder), patience isn’t a virtue in the NFL; it’s a fantasy. One-quarter of the 32 franchises entered this season with first year-coaches. Eleven others have been in place for three seasons or less. Another quarter could have first-year hires in place next season, with jobs in Washington and Carolina already filled on an interim basis.

It’s abundantly clear that Cleveland should be looking for new coach because the current officeholder isn’t smart enough to admit a dumb mistake. “My daughters wanted me to wear it and I’d wear it again,” Freddie Kitchens said about an inflammatory “Pittsburgh Started It” T-shirt that referenced the ugly Browns-Steelers brawl on Nov. 14.

I guess he’d also don drag if his daughters so desired?

He’s definitely not HC material if he thought it’d ever be appropriate to wear that childish shirt — and take a photo in it! — but especially only two days prior to the rematch when he told his team all week to just focus on football. That lapse is a fireable offense by itself before taking the Browns’ record (5-7) into account. Likely, the coach’s judgment and team’s performance are inextricably linked.

In addition to Carolina and maybe Cleveland, several other teams could be in competition for coaching candidates. And whether we’re talking off-field hiring or on-the-field results, Washington hasn’t been very competitive lately.

NFC East rivals Dallas and the New York Giants might be ready to move on from Jason Garrett and Pat Shurmur, respectively. Either opening would be more attractive than Washington’s job as the franchise is currently constructed (i.e., with president Bruce Allen in charge).

Say what you will about the Cowboys and their egocentric owner/GM Jerry Jones, but they have 15 Pro Bowlers on the roster and the league’s highest revenue. The hottest candidate who’s willing to endure the brightest spotlight for the big splash and bigger paycheck (Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley?) will sign without hesitation.

Giants owner John Mara would be loath to fire Pat Shurmur (7-28) after two seasons, when the previous coach, Ben McAdoo (13-15), lasted less than two seasons. But the franchise offers stability for a steady hand; only Tom Coughlin and Jim Fassel coached the Giants from 1997-2015.

Other teams that could be on the market and be more appealing than Washington? Atlanta reached the Super Bowl three years ago. Jacksonville reached the AFC title game two years ago. Detroit and the New York Jets aren’t definitely better gigs, but they aren’t definitively worse, either.

A rash of new openings after the recent rash of hirings could lead to a shortage of perceived “highly qualified” candidates. Washington could be forced to sort through leftovers and make a reach pick (thanks for your service Bill Callahan, but, no). That’s why it’s vitally important that the right person makes the decision.

That person might or might not be in the building, but it’s positively not Allen.

A shrewd decision-maker, with backing from a prudent owner, can see diamonds in coal. In 2007, Pittsburgh GM Kevin Colbert and team president Art Rooney II chose Mike Tomlin — with only one year of experience as a coordinator — over more-seasoned assistants such as Rivera, Russ Grimm and Ken Whisenhunt.

Tomlin has rewarded the Steelers’ faith with a 132-71-1 record, a Super Bowl title in two trips, and nary a losing campaign in 13 seasons. He probably will have better options than Ashburn if he doesn’t return to Pittsburgh.

But Washington likely must find a similar off-the-radar hire to re-establish its old standards.

⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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