For the first time since early 2011, the Carolina Panthers are no longer coached by Ron Rivera.
Carolina parted ways with the coach Tuesday, the team announced. Secondary coach Perry Fewell has been named interim head coach.
“I believe this is the best decision for the long-term success of our team,” Panthers owner David Tepper said in a statement. “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.”
Fewell will be supported by offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has head coaching experience will transition to the role of special assistant to the head coach. Scott Turner will take over as interim offensive coordinator.
The move came slightly earlier than expected, but could be foreseen after the Panthers’ performance in the last few weeks, and really, in the last two seasons. Carolina first faltered down the stretch in 2018, starting 6-2 before losing seven straight to finish 7-9. Questions arose about the health of Cam Newton, as well as the status of Rivera, but the coach survived to coach (part of) another season.
When Newton was lost for the season due to injury after just two games in 2019, Rivera initially seemed to handle it well. Kyle Allen replaced Newton, succeeded at first and even created a faction of fans who believed he should be the one to permanently replace Newton, but the former Texas A&M Aggie proved over time his hot start was a fluke more than anything. Carolina lost four games at or near the goal line with chances to either tie or win in 2019, and three of those heartbreaking defeats came in the last month as part of a four-game skid that ultimately did Rivera in.
Last week’s loss to Washington — an embarrassing defeat just a week and a half after Tepper said publicly he’s not interested in long-term mediocrity — was the final straw for the team’s owner.
NFL Network’s Steve Wyche added there’s also an expectation that general manager Marty Hurney will be fired as well as part of a house cleaning that will provide Tepper a head start in selecting his new front office and coaching staff.
Rivera won three NFC South titles, made the playoffs four times, was Coach of the Year twice and leaves Carolina with a career regular-season mark of 76-63-1. He owns a 3-4 postseason record, including a sprint to Super Bowl 50 in 2015. His Panthers lost just two games that year: one regular season contest, and the Super Bowl to Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos.
Tepper inherited Rivera as his team’s head coach when he purchased the Panthers in 2018, which oddly enough coincided with the beginning of Rivera’s downward slide. Since Tepper bought the team in May of that year, Rivera’s team won just 12 of 28 games.
The owner will now get a chance to hand pick his team’s coach for the first time in his tenure.
“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. “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.”