Panthers firing Ron Rivera could make opening for 49ers' Robert Saleh

Marcus White

The Carolina Panthers fired coach Ron Rivera on Tuesday in a move that could have implications for the 49ers this offseason. 

San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has been rumored to be a head-coaching candidate ahead of the 2020 season, with Niners cornerback Richard Sherman and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll endorsing Saleh. Saleh has overseen the 49ers' year-over-year turnaround on defense, using offseason acquisitions Nick Bosa, Dee Ford and injured linebacker Kwon Alexander to full effect.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have allowed the 11th-most total yards -- and the fourth-most on the ground -- this season. Thirty-eight percent of opponents' drives also have ended in a touchdown, the 11th-highest mark in the league. 

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Still, the Panthers might focus on the other side of the ball. Rivera himself was a former defensive coordinator, and Panthers owner David Tepper indicated Tuesday that his preference would be to hire a head coach with an offensive background.  

"This is a modern NFL,'' Tepper said in a press conference Tuesday (via ESPN). "There is a preference for offensive coordinators. That does not mean if you find somebody fantastic on the defensive side I won't consider it. The NFL has made rules to lean to the offense. That's why you have more people going that way.''

If Saleh were "fantastic" enough in Tepper's eyes, the 49ers would then have an opening on their staff. Rivera's background could make him a fit. The 57-year-old attended Seaside High School in Monterrey County and then played four years at Cal.

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The Panthers struggled with Rivera calling plays this season, and how well his scheme would translate to the 49ers' defensive personnel remains to be seen. Still, his extensive experience and personal ties to the Bay Area seemingly would make him a candidate. 

Saleh, however, first would have to land the head-coaching job that many see as an inevitability. 

Panthers firing Ron Rivera could make opening for 49ers' Robert Saleh originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

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