CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The Carolina Panthers announced Tuesday that the team has parted ways with Head Coach Ron Rivera after nine seasons, according to a statement released by team owner David Tepper.
The Panthers have struggled at times this year while dealing with a string of key injuries including a season-ending one for franchise quarterback Cam Newton. They currently sit at 5-7 for the 2019 season.
Rivera addressed the team’s decision at the Bank of America Stadium Wednesday morning, saying, “I thought about a lot of those things that happened in nine seasons. Thought about the ups and downs.”
The former Panthers coach said while he has fond memories with the team, he is looking forward to future opportunities.
When asked if he intends to coach again, Rivera answered “Absolutely.”
“My biggest regret is not winning the Superbowl,” Rivera said. If he could have changed anything of the current season, Rivera says it would have been to “keep everybody healthy.”
“I believe in what I do and the way I do it," Rivera said, in reference to his coaching style. “I want to be able to coach people and impact people."
“There’s a lot of men in there that have tremendous character," Rivera said of the Panthers players, mentioning Greg Olsen dealing with his son’s heart situation and Eric Reed on never wavering on his strong beliefs.
“We came in and did the best we could,” Rivera said. “And I hope we left it a better place.”
Perry Fewell, previously the team’s secondary coach, has been named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
Fewell, a Gaston County native has also served as a defensive coordinator for the New York Giants and an interim head coach for the Buffalo Bills. He also was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive backs coach. According to the Charlotte Observer, Fewell actually interviewed for the Panthers’ head coaching job in 2011, before Rivera was ultimately hired.
Rivera was named the fourth head coach in Carolina Panthers history in 2011, and earned a 76-63-1 regular season record and a 3-4 postseason mark, including an appearance in the Super Bowl in 2016.
"I believe this is the best decision for the long-term success of our team,” Tepper said. “I have a great deal of respect for Ron and the contributions he has made to this franchise and to this community. I wish him the best. I will immediately begin the search for the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers.’
Rivera said he appreciates Tepper’s approach. “He wants to hire his own head coach. He was very up front with me, very cordial,” Rivera said. Although, the timing seemed to be a shock. “I was surprised. If anything, I thought it would happen at the end of the season, to be honest with you," Rivera said.
“I do believe I will get an opportunity and I will coach again," Rivera said Wednesday.
On Nov. 18, Tepper spoke to media and expressed that he has been dissatisfied with the Panthers’ long-term mediocrity. Tepper referenced the team never posting consecutive winning seasons in its 24-plus years, and its plodding, win-one, lose-one tendencies.
Around 5:45 p.m., the Panthers tweeted a six-minute interview with David Tepper explaining his decision to part ways with Rivera.
“Ron Rivera, besides being a good coach, is one of the finest men I’ve ever met in my life,” Tepper said. “I just thought it was time, given the way things have gone the last two seasons, to put my stamp on this organization on the football side, as we’ve done on the business side of the organization.”
“As much respect as I have for Ron, I think a change was appropriate to build things the way I want things to be built,” Tepper said.
Tepper also spoke on the decision to choose Perry Fewell as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season.
“Perry is a person who can command a room in my mind, can be a general and I think that he is the right person to have that interim role and frankly be auditioning in a sense for that role in the future,” Tepper said.
As the interview ended, Tepper spoke more about his vision for the future of the Panthers.
“Today is a very difficult day for me personally, as I said I have tremendous admiration for Ron Rivera,” Tepper said. “But as far as a process is concerned, it’s the first step in the process of making sure we have a standard of excellence on all sides of this business, period.”
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton reacted to Ron Rivera’s firing, through an Instagram story Tuesday night.
“Will be forever grateful because of the impact you had on my life. Thank you for giving me an opportunity. Thank you for believing in me. I can go on and on but most importantly; thank you for allowing me to be me!! This one hurt deep,” Newton wrote.
Several other current and former Panthers players posted on social media about Rivera, including Greg Olsen, Thomas Davis and Christian McCaffrey. Each player expressed appreciation to Rivera, in their own special way.
“Tough day for Carolina. Thank you to the Coach who believed in me from day 1. You represent so much more than a football team. You represent what it means to be a leader and an example to everyone. I will forever be grateful to have played for you,” McCaffrey wrote in an Instagram post.
Rivera expressed he has been fortunate over the past decade, and of the players, he said: “I just want to make sure they know how much I believe in them.”
“Get ready for the next chapter,” Rivera said. “I’m kind of excited.”