The Carolina Panthers looked just fine without Cam Newton earlier this season.
Kyle Allen was thriving, and the team jumped out to a 4-2 start. Fast-forwarding to today, head coach Ron Rivera has been fired after his team dropped to 5-7 with a loss against an NFL bottom-feeder in the Washington Redskins.
The search for a new coach officially begins now for the Panthers. Of course, new options will surface after the season with another round of firings.
And whoever turns out to be the new coach to guide this franchise may not matter as much as what that new hire and a reworked front office ultimately decide to do with the undisputed face of the franchise.
Cam Newton has been out since Week 2 with a foot injury that has yet to heal. He is not a free agent until 2021, and is on the books for over $21 million in 2020. However, the Panthers can cut him loose for a dead cap hit of just $2 million.
The likely outcome is that the Panthers will reset and bring in new leadership before making any decision on Newton. That allows the injury to (hopefully) heal and create a scenario in which Newton may demand to be either extended or allowed to move.
All told, keeping him as a lame duck quarterback wouldn’t make much sense for a team looking to rise out of the ranks of mediocrity and hit the reset button.
A new coach coming in that does not want Newton is hinging his career to whoever lines up under center in Carolina. Conversely, sticking with Newton could doom a new coach if the veteran struggles and there is strife both in the locker room and in the owner’s suite.
The best option may be to offer up Newton in a trade, given he is healthy, to gain some value from him.
There are plenty of decisions to be made in Carolina, and firing Rivera is just the beginning.