Ron Rivera emerged as the leading candidate to be the Panthers’ next coach yesterday when the San Diego defensive coordinator arrived in Charlotte, N.C., for a second interview.
Team spokesman Charlie Dayton said Rivera had not yet been hired to replace the fired John Fox.
The 49-year-old Rivera is the first candidate to be interviewed twice, and the first to speak directly with Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.
General manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison interviewed three other defensive coordinators last week: Perry Fewell of the Giants, San Francisco’s Greg Manusky, and Rob Ryan of Cleveland.
None of them received a second interview. That makes Rivera, a former linebacker with the Bears and a member of Chicago’s Super Bowl-winning team in 1985, the front-runner as he seeks his first NFL head coaching job.
Broncos in holding pattern Fox’s interview for the Broncos’ coaching vacancy was rescheduled after he was unable to fly out of North Carolina because of bad weather. A winter storm began rolling across the South Sunday, coating bridges and roads with snow, sleet, and freezing rain and forcing the cancellation of more than 2,000 flights in the region.
Fox will interview instead tomorrow, as will Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Fewell and Broncos interim coach Eric Studesville interviewed Sunday.
Offensive coordinators Dirk Koetter of Jacksonville and Rick Dennison of Houston will interview today. Dennison spent more than 20 years with the Broncos as a player and assistant coach before joining the Texans last season.
All quiet in Cleveland So far the Browns have interviewed two coaches — St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey — and have a meeting scheduled with Fewell today as they look to replace Eric Mangini, fired by president Mike Holmgren after his second straight losing season. Shurmur, 45, has been labeled a “front-runner’’ in some reports, but that can’t mean too much in what’s currently a two-man race. As for Jon Gruden, he remains a mystery man in Cleveland’s quest to hire its fifth coach since 1999. Gruden grew up in Sandusky, Ohio, rooting for the Browns and could be drawn back to the NFL by what was once a dream job. Gruden, who was hired by Holmgren as an entry-level assistant in 1990, was in Arizona working ESPN’s radio broadcast of last night’s BCS championship game. An ESPN spokesman said Gruden remains committed to ESPN and to ‘Monday Night Football.’ ’’ . . . The Raiders began their search to replace Tom Cable, though many believe offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is the favorite. “The interview process has begun,’’ senior executive John Herrera said. “No candidates will be named at this point.’’ . . . Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is hopeful linebacker Lofa Tatupu (concussion) and receiver Ben Obomanu (dislocated right shoulder) will be able to practice by the end of the week for Sunday’s game at Chicago . . . Cookie Gilchrist, the former Bills running back and the AFL’s player of the year in 1962, died of cancer in Pittsburgh. He was 75. Obituary, B12.