The news might not be shocking to some, but the timing certainly is: Ron Rivera has been fired as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
“Riverboat Ron” was not able to completely right the ship this season, and after a loss to Washington, the Panthers are now 5-7 on the season, having lost 4 games in a row, and having gone 1-5 after their bye week.
Rivera had been the head coach in Carolina since 2011, which also happened to be the rookie season of QB Cam Newton.
Rivera went 76-63-1 during his 8+ seasons with the Panthers, including four trips to the playoffs (3-4 record in the postseason), and one trip to the Super Bowl.
Rivera was the NFL Coach of the Year twice (2013, 2015). The 2015 season was when the Panthers went 15-1 and Cam Newton won the NFL MVP, but the team lost to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
The organization is in a time of transition under owner David Tepper, who bought the franchise in May 2018 from the team’s original owner, Jerry Richardson (Richardson was forced to sell the team due to workplace misconduct of a sexual and racial nature).
Tepper, who was previously a minority owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, obviously has a right to bring in his own people, and this decision has seemed possible since he took over the team, but the timing sucks.
Yes, the Panthers are on a downslide, but Rivera helped guide the team to a 4-game winning streak earlier in the season after Newton went down to injury, keeping the Panthers season alive and worthwhile. He is arguably the most successful coach in franchise history (John Fox deserves some recognition there too), and was 4 games shy of reaching 9 full seasons, something only Fox had done with the team.
The timing is quite similar to when Mike McCarthy was fired by the Packers a year ago on December 2, 2018. This gave the Packers a head start for their coaching search, one that ended with the hiring of Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
Though not the first team to fire their coach this season (Washington beat them to it about 2 months ago), the Panthers will have a similar start compared to teams that will let go of their coaches after Week 17.
Rivera, 57, shouldn’t be out of a job long (keep an eye out for a Cowboys connection), and I would be surprised if we don’t see him coaching again in the near future.
In his place, Panthers defensive backs coach Perry Fewell will become the interim head coach for the remainder of the 2019 season.
Fewell is a long-time defensive assistant, with coordinator stops with the Bills and Giants. He was the interim coach of the Bills in 2009, going 3-4, but never landed an official head coaching gig.
One cool note: Fewell is a North Carolina native, so being able to be the head coach of the local team should be pretty cool.
Big questions still remain in Carolina, such as the future of franchise QB Cam Newton; now the next head coach is officially on this list.
We’re getting closer and closer to Black Monday, and Ron Rivera just became the second of what will undoubtedly be several head coaches to lose their jobs.
As we know, that’s the reality of sports.
Photo above from the Associated Press
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