The Carolina Panthers announced on Tuesday that they have fired head coach Ron Rivera. It was not a totally shocking move but the timing was somewhat surprising.

Rivera, who went 76-63-1 during his 8 years with the franchise, is already being reported as being the front-runner for the possible opening in Dallas if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finally moves away from Jason Garrett.

Ron Rivera

Rivera was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year two times during his run with the Panthers, including in 2015 when he led the team to a 15-1 record and a trip to the Super Bowl where they lost to the Broncos.

The move may have been moved up a month or so due to the Carolina lose to the lowly Washington Redskins at home last week. The Panthers built an early lead before falling apart. New owner David Tepper could not have liked what he saw in Charlotte.

Tepper, who did not hire Rivera, watched Carolina jump out to a 14-0 lead against a formerly 2-9 team, then gave up 29 straight points to rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins and a Redskins team that obviously played with more intensity and purpose.

Apparently, Tepper has seen enough. We will see who he seeks out to replace Rivera and it will be interesting to see if Rivera ends up in Dallas. I would not rule out Chicago as the Bears are struggling and Rivera played in the Windy City for close to ten years.

NFL Playoffs Need To Change

Another NFL season, another NFL team rewarded for mediocrity. It happens time and time again in the NFL.

As the NFL playoff picture stands today, the winner of the very mediocre NFC East Division will host a wild-card playoff game while either Seattle or San Francisco will have to travel. This, even though both the Seahawks and 49ers have won 10 games already compared to Dallas who leads the NFC East with a 6-6 record.

Cowboys favored for Super Bowl

The archaic system utilized by the NFL means that Seattle or San Francisco has to win three consecutive road playoff games to reach the Super Bowl. This rarely happens. The last time it did was in 2010 when the Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers passed their way through the NFC Playoffs.

What does happen often is that a team with a worse record is gifted a home wild-card game and knocks out a team with a better record.

Unlike the more progressive NBA, the NFL continues to award its top four seeds to division winners, regardless of their records. That means a Dallas or Philadelphia team that likely would be shut out of the playoffs if not for winning the NFC East will get preference over a wild-card team with a better record.

The Cowboys are currently 6-6, with games left against Chicago, the Rams, Philadelphia and Washington. The Eagles are 5-7, with the Giants, Washington, Dallas and another game against the Giants still to come.

In the best-case scenario, Dallas would claim the NFC East with 10 wins or Philadelphia with nine wins. Worst-case, and this is not so far-fetched, the NFC East winner finishes below .500. Either way, they still get a top-four seed.