The Panthers improved from 2-14 (2010) to 6-10 (2011) in Rivera's first season. Expectations skyrocketed as No. 1 overall draft pick Cam Newton broke NFL records as a rookie. The Panthers didn't live up to those expectations in 2012 with a 3-9 start, but four consecutive wins to end the season probably saved Rivera's job.
There's a dynamic young quarterback in Carolina, and Richardson doesn't want to waste that talent. Newton was the darling of the NFL as a rookie, but he was outshined by Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson this season.
Rivera's fate is tied to Newton's success. It's that simple.
The Panthers have yet to hire a new general manager.
Follow Kareem Copeland on Twitter @kareemcopeland.