Ron Rivera is still a good NFL coach. He just wasn’t the right coach for the Panthers, who threw Rivera in the middle of the 9th season.
With the stability he brought to Carolina, his reputation around the NFL and the rise of penultimate success – leading his team to the Super Bowl 50 after the 2015 season – Rivera will be in the game for other supposed openings before or before “Black Monday.”
There are many teams better positioned to become big winners sooner than the Panthers renewal with which Rivera would have more advantage. The sudden availability of Rivera will alert the champions of owners wishing to upgrade.
Here are the five landing spots that make the most sense, with two clear leaders, due to their direct connections to Rivera, if they get off their current buses.
MORE: The Panthers’ Top 11 Candidates to Replace Ron Rivera
1. The New York Giants
Pat Shurmur is likely to go out with the Giants on the road to end the 2019 season on a 12-game losing streak. Rivera coached the Panthers in this Super Bowl four years ago, but then Sporting News director of the year and current Giants general manager Dave Gettleman was the architect.
Daniel Jones has some promise as a new coach and Rivera is used to having an all-purpose elite like Saquon Barkley. He is well-connected to coaching with Dave Shula, the former Panthers offensive coordinator who is in the same position as the Giants.
Defender faced a 3-4 defender in Carolina for the first time as a player with mixed results: A better end was hurried, but a much worse defense. The Giants have lost their way of trying to integrate this base alignment with James Bettcher. The history of the Giants was for a strong front four, and this was the foundation of the Panthers Rivera best teams. It could help restore this plan to get the team back on track.
The Giants have unfortunately lost the hilarious inside linebacker Ryan Connelly to a torn ACL, but could easily be the new Luke Kuechly for Rivera’s new defense. While Jones can be a top flight QB and leader on the other side of the ball. In a league of rivals, the Giants can turn the Panthers’ best winning streak into their own, just as the Assistants and former Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott have done elsewhere in New York.
2. Cleveland Browns
The Browns defense needs some stabilization, and Rivera’s reunion with Steve Wilks to determine the front and the secondary would make a ton of sense. Rivera would also bring some required discipline and accountability to every part of their team, something Freddie Kitchens was unable to do.
With Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb, Odell Beckham Jr., Kareem Hunt and Jarvis Landry, the Browns have an offense that is ready to win big now and Rivera can find the right man to maximize and rationalize all of these skill players in a better design, with a focus on reinforcing the line. Rivera’s rich mind as a former linebacker would be ideal to match Mike Tomlin and John Harbaugh in the AFC North.
3. Atlanta Falcons
That would be weird, wouldn’t it? That’s why it’s a distant third. Geographically, that wouldn’t be too big for a move, and would bring with it the revenge bonus of facing the Panthers twice a season. But for now, the Falcons may end up stuck with Dan Quinn.
If they don’t, you can bet that Rivera’s name will find Arthur Blank as the only successful and still respected division rival. The Falcons, with Matt Ryan, have an offense ready to win now and a 4-3 defense that needs some fixing, with the right personnel upgrades in the defense and secondary.
4. Jacksonville Jaguars
Build them under another southeast alternative to Rivera. The Jaguars have some good talent at 4-3, but need reinforcements on the linebacker and sophomore to restore the dominant defense they had just two seasons ago with Todd Wash. Chark, Leonard Fournette and Dede Westbrook are also good strikers. The Jaguars can return to victory faster with Rivara then sticking with Doug Marrone.
5. Washington Redskins
You can’t exclude the team that Rivera coached in his final game for the Panthers. They could also use some defensive discipline and steady nature after sticking with Jay Gruden for a long time with limited results. But again, why should Rivera cling to Dwayne Haskins and Derrius Guice, but with a defensive back in an unfamiliar proprietary and unstable front-office environment when the Giants are the much better job and fit for him?
Chances are strong with Rivera landing in New York, with Cleveland relatively close, if these teams seek positive change as expected.