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3 toots for Riverboat Ron, the best bargain in all of coaching!

The Carolina Panthers made Ron Rivera one of the 10 highest paid coaches in the NFL, and it's still probably not enough for what he's done there.

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Riverboat Ron got a big pay day. The Panthers head coach signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract extension, paying him an average of $6.5 million per season and making him one of the 10 highest paid coaches in the NFL.

He deserved it too. Remember, the Panthers were on the verge of firing him after his first two seasons in Carolina. He got a second chance and took on a new lease on life, or at least coaching. Rivera ditched the conservative coaching tendencies that plague so many NFL head coaches. He went for it on fourth down. He called for big plays over short gains. Riverboat Ron was born! And the Panthers have joined the league's upper echelon of elite teams.

Oddly enough, Rivera still isn't one of the league's five highest paid coaches. Take a look at the list of the top 11 highest paid coaches (based on various reporting):

Annual salary Last contract Record since 2012 Playoff appearances Super Bowls
Pete Carroll, SEA $8 million+ 2014 46-18 4 2 (1 win)
Sean Payton, NO $8 million 2012 25-23* 1 n/a
Bill Belichick, NE $7.5 million 2013 48-16 4 1 (1 win)
Andy Reid, KC $7.5 million 2013 35-29 2 n/a
John Harbaugh, BAL $7 million 2013 33-31 2 1 (1 win)
Jeff Fisher, LA $7 million 2012 27-36-1 0 n/a
Ron Rivera, CAR $6.5 million 2016 41-22-1 3 1
Jason Garrett, DAL $6 million 2015 32-32 1 n/a
Bruce Arians, AZ $6 million 2015 43-17** 3 n/a
Mike McCarthy, GB $6 million 2014 41-22-1 4 n/a
Chip Kelly, SF $6 million 2016 26-21*** 1 n/a

* Payton was suspended for the 2012 season.
** Includes his 11-game stint as an interim for the Colts in 2012.
*** Kelly didn't start in the NFL until 2013.

That's the going rate for top-flight coaches, and it shouldn't be a surprise that three of the last four Super Bowl winners are among the five highest paid. You could argue with Payton's contract, but the Saints were only two years removed from a Super Bowl at the time and coming off a 13-win season.

There's only one coach on this list who hasn't been to the playoffs since 2012, Jeff Fisher. His Rams haven't even had a winning season, not even a .500 season, but he did help the team relocate and make his owner even richer, so that's probably worth something to the rotten human who signs his checks.

Even at $6.5 million per season, Rivera's a bargain. We don't talk a lot about coaching salaries because they don't count against the cap, but it's one of the most important expenditures a team makes. The Panthers were smart to lock up Riverboat Ron.

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