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Given the Panthers' current four-game losing streak and slim playoff chances, the surprise wasn't that Rivera was fired. Rather, it was the fact his dismissal came with just four games left in an already lost season. The early move gives Tepper more time to pursue his next coach, particularly when it comes to candidates who are currently unemployed or in the college ranks.
Oddsmakers didn't waste any time, either, releasing a shortlist of potential hires on Tuesday. Jim Harbaugh opened as the favorite, but he's since been usurped by Robert Saleh, who's listed at 5-1 after not appearing in the opening odds.
Here's a list of odds for potential coaching candidates, with a few interesting names highlighted:
The 49ers defensive coordinator is atop many shortlists in the NFL, and rightly so after his work with San Francisco's defense this season. Saleh has been arguably the NFL's most impressive coordinator in 2019 and should be eyeing a head coaching gig somewhere next year.
Carolina might not be the fit, though. Tepper told reporters "there's a preference for offensive coordinators" in the "modern NFL," even though the Panthers had one of the league's more tenuous defensive units this season. At short odds, look elsewhere.
Harbaugh opened as the favorite for the job, but he quickly slid down the oddsboard to his current listing at fourth-favorite. He led San Francisco to a Super Bowl appearance in his last NFL stint, and his ability to quickly revitalize programs could be attractive to Tepper after the Panthers' disappointing 2019 campaign.
Perhaps the Michigan coach is the reason for Rivera's early pink slip, but there are better college coaches who more closely fit Tepper's preference for a young, analytics-focused head coach. If Harbaugh returns to the NFL, don't expect him to so in Carolina.
There may be no candidate who better fits Tepper's vision than McDaniels, and a source says Panthers officials are high on him as a potential coach. He makes sense - the Patriots offensive coordinator is one of the most well-regarded young minds in football and could reinvigorate a Carolina team currently wasting Christian McCaffrey's unique skill set.
Would the Panthers be willing to take a chance on McDaniels after he left the Colts at the altar two years ago? Or after he flamed out as the Broncos' head coach? Given the early buzz, it seems like they'd take him - if he wants them, too.
Much of what's said about McDaniels applies to Roman, who's found magic with the Ravens' offense this year and firmly embraced analytics in his decision-making processes. His innovations in the running game should appeal to a team with McCaffrey and quarterback Cam Newton, should the franchise opt to keep the latter for 2020.
Roman isn't exactly the "young" innovator painted as Tepper's ideal candidate. Maybe it won't matter, or maybe he can find a better fit than Carolina. Either way, he's a name to watch, especially at long-ish odds.
One of the first candidates floated after Rivera's firing was McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl with the Packers and shares Pittsburgh roots with Tepper. McCarthy is unemployed and can immediately interview for the gig; he could be the reason the Panthers opted to dismiss Rivera early.
McCarthy might not be the analytics-focused fit Tepper wants, though, given the constant criticism he garnered for conservative play-calling in Green Bay. Still, McCarthy at 12-1 might be the best value given the early smoke, even if the actual fire wouldn't make much sense.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.