Riverboat Ron Gone



After nine years as the head coach for the Panthers, Ron Rivera has been fired and the team is moving in a new direction (Photo courtesy of Instagram, photo credits to @NFLParadise).

After coaching the Carolina Panthers for nine years, the Panthers have fired head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera had a 76-63-1 record as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. He was the winningest head coach in Panthers history. Rivera led the team to a Super Bowl appearance after the 2015 season, and he also won three NFC South Division titles with the Panthers. 

“I believe this is the best decision for the long-term success of our team. 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,” said Panthers owner David Tepper in a statement on Panthers.com.

Tepper named secondary coach Perry Fewell the interim head coach on December 4, 2019 after a hopeful 2019 season turned for the worst. Tepper bought the team in 2017 after Jerry Richardson sold the team. Tepper immediately started to make changes on the business side of the Panthers by hiring a new Team President, but he chose to leave the football side alone. Even after a collapse by the Panthers in 2018, Tepper allowed Rivera to retain his job. During the offseason, Rivera and the team ‘s general manager, Marty Hurney, built a competitive Panthers roster through free agency and the NFL Draft. But now, the Panthers have been eliminated from the playoffs and Tepper has started to make changes on the football side.

“I came here two years ago. I wanted to show patience on the football side to see how it was going. On the business side we made vast and sweeping changes, and I didn’t want to make those vast and sweeping changes on the football side. I wanted to take time and patience to see what could go and how it could go. 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,” said Tepper in a video released by the Panthers.

With the team now headed in another direction, Panthers fans need to appreciate and remember everything Coach Rivera accomplished for the team. With Rivera at the helm, the Panthers had a series of highs and lows. Even though the team could never get back-to-back winning records despite winning the division three years in a row, Rivera brought discipline to the team. He taught them many lessons in football and in life. Rivera encouraged players to have their families around, and he often had his family around to show the players how to treat them. But most of all, Rivera allowed the players to be themselves.

“Coach Rivera was somebody that believed in me before I learned how to believe in myself.  Often times coming from a small school you wonder if you belong. I found myself culture shocked around an environment I’ve never experienced. Though I have the talent, I didn’t have the understanding, consistency, and self-belief. He taught me to be self-sufficient, strong in leadership, how to appreciate a moment and the importance of team. He would have quotes in the opening of every team meeting. The one that stuck with me the most was “by yourself you can fast but with a team you can go far”. That resonated with my life outside of football as well. Who’s your team? Friends, family and teammates. What do you have that can provide for them, lift them, and lead them not just to get you to where you want by yourself but as a team.

It’s a lot I can say I learned from coach, admired about coach and appreciate him for. But overall I just thank him for the opportunity and God for allowing him to be the vessel and the messenger,” said former Panthers wide receiver Austin Duke.

Rivera also lead the Panthers to a 15-1 record during the 2015 season. This year was a magical year for Panthers fans. They saw Quarterback Cam Newton win the Most Valuable Player award and the team advance to the Super Bowl. My favorite memory from the 2015 season was the NFC Conference Championship. The Carolina Panthers faced the Arizona Cardinals and they ended up blowing them out 49 to 15. It was a game to remember.

“[I] 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,” said quarterback Cam Newton on his Instagram story.

But Rivera’s impact was more than on the football field, he gave back to the community. One example of this was his annual bowling event where some of his players and him bowled to raise money for charity. During his time as head coach, he held this event eight times. The money raised from the event was donated to the local Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte. He  attended his players’ charity events and supported them, and he also gave back to the fans by signing autographs after practice during summer training camps. 

“Ron brought family, brought a sense of family, and brought culture to this organization. His wife was available around the players, and his daughter was available around the players. He taught each and every man in that room how to treat their wives and how to treat their daughters, and how to be men. I can only aspire to do that,” said former Panthers interim coach Perry Fewell in an article with ESPN.

As the Panthers move in a new direction, it is important to remember the past. Riverboat Ron will be remembered as a good coach and an even greater man. Even though the years were filled with ups and downs, Rivera’s years as head coach were some of the greatest for Carolina. Parting ways may be best for both parties. Rivera has found a new opportunity with the Washington Redskins and I hope he finds success there. The Panthers, on the other hand, have found another coach, Matt Rhule, and a new era in Carolina has begun. David Tepper said he was looking for a coach who could use analytics and could take a modern approach and that is what Rhule bring to the table. But as Riverboat Ron sails away, we need to remember his contributions to Carolina that will still be felt for years.