Ron Rivera has been fired as Panthers head coach, team owner David Tepper announced Tuesday.
Secondary coach Perry Ferrell will serve as interim head coach for the rest of the 2019 season, per the team. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will be special assistant to the head coach, and his son Scott Turner will serve as offensive coordinator.
“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, who was in his ninth season as the Panthers’ coach, ends his tenure with a 76-63-1 regular-season record, not including a 3-4 mark in the playoffs. He led Carolina to Super Bowl 50 after the 2015 season and captured three NFC South titles, but he never managed consecutive seasons with a winning record. He is a two-time Coach of the Year winner.
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This move is not a surprise given the circumstances. After Carolina suffered an upset loss to division-rival Atlanta a few weeks ago, Tepper stated publicly he would not accept mediocrity as owner of the Panthers. In the (almost) two seasons since Tepper purchased the team, the Panthers under Rivera had gone 12-16.
Last week’s loss to Washington, which traveled to Carolina as a 10-point underdog, evidently was the last straw. The defeat dropped the Panthers to 5-7 this season and virtually out of playoff contention.
The question now in Carolina: How much change will Tepper continue bring to the franchise? Some have speculated whether Marty Hurney also will be let go, but the general manager is safe for now.
“We are going to take a comprehensive and thorough review of our football operation to make sure we are structured for long-term sustained success,” Tepper said in the team’s release Tuesday. “Our vision is to find the right mix of old-school discipline and toughness with modern and innovative processes. We will consider a wide range of football executives to complement our current football staff. One change that we will implement is hiring an assistant general manager and vice president of football operations. We all must recognize that this is the first step in a process, but we are committed to building and maintaining a championship culture for our team and our fans.”
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And then there’s the elephant in the room that is Cam Newton’s future. Carolina’s 30-year-old franchise quarterback was placed on injured reserve last month with a Lisfranc injury, and he is entering the final year of his contract on a non-guaranteed salary.
The Panthers’ new coach reportedly will have a say in whether the team will move on from or keep the QB in 2020.
If Carolina decides to move on from Newton, which would save the team $19 million in salary cap space, one option could be a trade. Others like Sporting News contributor Jeff Diamond believe the team is likely to simply cut him.
Newton and Rivera, of course, arrived in Carolina together in 2011. With the Panthers’ Rivera era already finished, the Newton era might soon follow.