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    Panthers’ 11 best coaching candidates to replace fired Ron Rivera

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    The Panthers decided to fire Ron Rivera on Tuesday after (almost) nine NFL seasons as their head coach.

    After being hired in 2011, Rivera led the team to a 76-63-1 regular-season record with four trips to the postseason. The Panthers posted a 3-4 playoff mark with Rivera, highlighted by advancing to Super Bowl 50 after the 2015 season.

    While secondary coach Perry Fewell will take over as head coach for the interim, he probably is not a long-term head coaching option for team owner David Tepper.

    Here’s a list of 11 mostly offensive-minded replacement candidates for Rivera, whose taking control of the defense, leading to awful play against the run, is the big reason he’s out with four weeks left in the 2019 season.

    MORE: How Panthers will approach breakup with Cam Newton

    • Kevin Stefanski

    Current position: offensive coordinator, Vikings

    Stefanski is only 37, but ever since he took over in his current post in the middle of last season, Kirk Cousins has delivered career-best passing. Minnesota’s running game also has hit a new level with Gary Kubiak bringing the zone-blocking concepts to facilitate Stefanski’s steadfast usage of Dalvin Cook.

    Mike Zimmer has been a good mentor, and Stefanski can guide Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel (and QB TBD) to big things.

    • Eric Bieniemy

    Current position: offensive coordinator, Chiefs

    Bieniemy, 50, is the latest strong Andy Reid protege after Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy got good jobs out of the same capacity.

    He has done great work with Patrick Mahomes, and that should give him plenty of appeal to take the next step with whoever the Panthers’ starting quarterback is in 2020, whether that’s Cam Newton, a bridge option from elsewhere or a high draft pick.



    (SN/Getty)

    Byron Leftwich

    • Byron Leftwich

    Current position: offensive coordinator, Buccaneers

    Leftwich at 39 also is young, but he has rapidly earned respect around the league while learning under Bruce Arians. He has done better than you think with operating the attack around Jameis Winston.

    File Leftwich as another coach who could take full advantage of the explosive receiving talent of Moore and Samuel plus the all-world backfield domination of McCaffrey.

    • Greg Roman

    Current position: offensive coordinator, Ravens

    Roman, 47, is having an exceptional season leading Lamar Jackson and Baltimore’s run-based offensive machine. He has learned well from two successful brothers, Jim and John Harbaugh.

    Roman is an innovative, forward-thinking mind, and the analytics should come with him from the Ravens.

    • Nick Sirianni

    Current position: offensive coordinator, Colts

    Sirianni, 38, is younger than Leftwich but also has been well regarded as a rising assistant for Frank Reich. He has good experience with the Chiefs and Chargers, too.

    Again, with fixing quarterback play in Carolina being key and installing a solid system a must, Sirianni belongs on the short list.

    • Robert Saleh

    Current position: Defensive coordinator, 49ers

    Saleh, 40, is making himself a strong candidate with his exceptional all-around work on the 49ers’ defensive turnaround to support the offensive prowess of Kyle Shanahan. He is a fiery motivator with youthful energy, an exuberance he learned from Pete Carroll in Seattle.

    He could be the Panthers’ version of former defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who has been a hit with the Bills.



    (Getty Images)

    Jason Garrett

    • Jason Garrett

    Current position: head coach, Cowboys

    Jerry Jones does think Garrett will be coaching somewhere in the NFL in 2020. Should Dallas part ways with its coach, he might not seem like the most inspiring choice or even more than a lateral move from Rivera, but the 53-year-old is good at bringing stability and consistency to the sidelines.

    Tepper would like Garrett’s smarts and organization, even if the analytics and aggressiveness aren’t assets.

    • Todd Monken

    Current position: offensive coordinator, Buccaneers

    Monken should be in play for many college football openings at age 53, because he has that kind of mindset with his scheming.

    But underused with Freddie Kitchens, he should want to get out of Cleveland and get into a situation where can display more of his play-calling and leadership acumen.

    • Dan Campbell

    Current position: assistant head coach/tight ends, Saints

    Campbell, 43, got his chance with the Dolphins as the interim head coach four seasons ago, but he has learned much since then working with Sean Payton.

    The former NFL tight end mixes a good knowledge of offensive schemes with a nice motivational makeup, perfect for a Panthers youth movement.

    MORE: Where will Cam Newton play in 2020?

    • Matt Eberflus

    Current position: defensive coordinator, Colts

    Eberflus, 49, will be a head coach somewhere soon thanks to the bang-up job he has done scheming and getting the most out of the Colts’ defense.

     Like Sirianni, Eberflus also has learned well under Reich.

    • John DeFilippo

    Current position: offensive coordinator, Jaguars

    DeFilippo has gotten some buzz again for a head-coaching job, as the 41-year-old, despite being handcuffed by Doug Marrone and not getting much help from the defense, has done great things with Gardner Minshew, Leonard Fournette and D.J. Chark.

    That certainly gives appeal for an offense centered around McCaffrey, Moore and Samuel.

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