Tuesday afternoon, the Carolina Panthers made a surprising move by firing head coach Ron Rivera amid a 5-7 season. This ended his nine seasons with the team and created questions about a future coaching hire. Additionally, this move also put Cam Newton's future with the franchise into doubt.
Over the past few months, there have been rumors swirling about the Panthers either releasing Newton prior to the new league year in March or trading him to a quarterback-needy team. The former first overall pick from 2011 only has one season remaining on his contract and will be a free agent after 2020. If released, the belief is that he would have a sizable market that includes Cincinnati, Oakland, and Chicago.
Rivera has long defended the first draft pick of his coaching tenure while avoiding questions about any potential upcoming transactions. Now, however, the head coach is gone and owner David Tepper will be searching for someone else to lead this team back to the Super Bowl.
While the replacement coach for the Panthers is currently - and will be - unknown until the end of the season, it's very possible that the hiring will mark the end of Newton's tenure. Many coaches want to bring in their "own guy" when they join a new team, thus providing a clean slate for everyone involved.
The perfect example of this is Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury. The former Texas Tech leader took over a franchise that had a first-round pick in Josh Rosen entering his second season. The former UCLA signal-caller had shown promise during his rookie season, but he wasn't Kingsbury's guy, so the head coach selected rookie Kyler Murray first overall in 2019.
Similarly, Kyle Shanahan was hired as the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. He joined a team that had questions at quarterback, so he swung a trade for former New England Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo. When Rex Ryan was hired as the head coach of the New York Jets in 2009, he made it his purpose to select a franchise quarterback with his first-round draft pick. Former USC starter Mark Sanchez became the selection.
There have been some coaches that took a specific job based upon the existing option at quarterback, such as in Green Bay. Matt LaFleur inherited perennial Pro Bowl QB Aaron Rodgers when he took the job as Packers coach, which provided him with a trusted option that could guarantee multiple victories in 2019.
There have been some examples of coaches joining a team and sticking with the existing option, but these teams also had an existing owner that was around for the previous player being selected in the NFL Draft. David Tepper, the owner of the Carolina Panthers, purchased the team prior to the 2018 season. He was not involved in drafting Newton, and there is a scenario in which he pushes for a new quarterback to lead this franchise into the future.
Newton's fate isn't sealed at this point, and he could ultimately return to the Panthers to finish out the final season of his contract. However, there are factors in play that could result in him heading to a different team. If so, he would reportedly have a robust market.
(Photo Credit: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
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