This is the upside to JR opting to keep Rivera--it gives an incoming GM a pass on the first season.
It takes all the pressure off the GM to decide the coaching piece while he fixes the cap and get the lay of the land. No matter what Rivera does, he is looking good. Gets to keep him if he is successful or can him and bring in another guy when he is ready to make wholesale changes. He will be seen as decisive if he pulls the trigger and successful if we have a winning season. Richardson has always let the GM manage the money and players. He has people like Morrison to oversee things and provide guidance.
Regardless of what people may think of JR and the way the Panthers are run, if you want to be a GM, you have a choice of six franchises. If you compare them to the Panthers, here's what you see, in what I think is descending order of desirability:
Chargers: Probably the most desirable of landing spots. There's a troubling lack of talent on defense, but that can be fixed through free agency and the draft over the next couple of seasons. There's a patient owner, a franchise quarterback, and you get to pick the coach.
Cardinals: There's a great defense in place and you get to choose your coach. The offense needs a lot of work.
Chiefs: Your coach has been chosen for you and will want final say over personnel, but at least you know he's good. Your starting QB is a journeyman. On the bright side, there's talent on defense and the franchise has a decent history.
Browns: You might have a franchise quarterback, but it's more likely you have Weinke 2.0. There's talent and a passionate fan base, and there's a rich history. Unfortunately, it's pretty much a losing history.
Jags: There's talent, but the team sorely needs a franchise quarterback (Gabbert isn't it). You get to choose your coach. There's a real challenge regarding the overall franchise stability, because of lackluster attendance, so you may end up in LA at some point.
Jets: You get a terrible owner, a coach who won't cooperate with you, no quarterback, and the New York media to contend with. What's not to love?
Looking at that list, I think that the Panthers come in 2nd or 3rd. San Diego is going to be the preferred landing spot of a lot of aspiring GMs, IMHO.