The Panthers fired Ron Rivera on a Tuesday. Five days before their Week 14 game and four games before the end of the season.
The timing made little sense.
“Quite frankly, our season is . . . not over but as far as making the playoffs [it’s over],” owner David Tepper said in an interview with the team website. “I could make the change now. I could make it later. There are competitive reasons why I wanted to make sure we are out there looking at all personnel possible for the future. I don’t want to in any way, shape or form didn’t want to be having inquiries where Ron didn’t know what I was doing. I don’t want to be doing things not up front. It’s just not who I am. I’d rather be straight up and honest. If I’m going to make a change, I’m going to take a change. Not to get a competitive disadvantage over other teams, if I need to talk to people, I want to talk to them and I want to talk to them in a straightforward and honest way.”
Rivera went 76-63-1 as the team’s head coach with four playoff appearances. The Panthers won the NFC title in 2015 after going 15-1 in the regular season but lost to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
Tepper said it was an “emotional conversation” with Rivera as he handed him the pink slip.
“Look, a very hard move,” Tepper said. “Ron Rivera, besides being a good coach, is one of the finest men I have ever met in my life. I have to say that upfront. Look, 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. I think 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.”