Ron Rivera helped make the Panthers one of the NFL's more successful teams over the past decade, as Carolina won three consecutive NFC South division titles while appearing in Super Bowl 50. But on Tuesday, Rivera was firedwith four games remaining in the 2019 season. The Panthers, despite their recent run of success, had slipped to 5-7 this season and are in jeopardy of a third losing season in four years.
On Wednesday morning, Rivera returned to the Panthers' facility to discuss his nine years with the organization while offering insight on his plans for the future. Rivera, who said he is looking forward to being a head coach again, said that he was proud of what he was able to accomplish in Carolina, especially the fact that the Panthers won three straight division titles. He added, near the end of his press conference, "My greatest missed opportunity is that he didn't win a Super Bowl," as the Panthers lost their lone Super Bowl appearance under Rivera, a 24-10 loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.
"I'm proud that I took over a 2-14 team and won back-to-back-to-back NFC South division titles & I get tired of hearing we couldn't win two years in a row," Rivera said. "No, we won three years in a row; so let's get that straight. And we were the first team in the NFC South to do that, so I'm pretty doggone proud of that."
Rivera said that he was surprised to be let go in-season. He said that he did appreciate owner David Tepper's honesty when being told that he was being relieved of his duties as the Panthers' head coach.
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With regard to how his time with the Panthers ended, Rivera, the winningest coach in franchise history, said that wouldn't change anything about how he handled his time with the team. He also said that he he looks forward to being a head coach again while having the opportunity to "make an impact on young men." Rivera added that he has the "right kind of experience" to be a head coach in the NFL again
Rivera, who said that guiding the Panthers to the 2015 NFC championship may be his greatest moment as Carolina's head coach, did have an opportunity to speak to his players on Wednesday before addressing the media. Despite the team's current record, Rivera said the Panthers still have the right core of players to get back to their winning ways sooner rather than later.
"There's a good core," said Rivera, who pointed to Baltimore and Pittsburgh as two organizations who have rebounded after recent dips in production. "The only anomaly to this thing is New England. You look at every team, and there's highs and lows, and you gotta be able to survive the lows."
Rivera said he was thankful to coach several future Hall of Fame players. He specifically mentioned linebacker Luke Kuechly, who he believes will be enshrined in Canton someday. He also mentioned Cam Newton while expressing his gratitude for the nine years they spent together in Carolina.
Before stepping off the podium, Rivera was asked about what he wants his legacy in Carolina to be.
"When we leave, I hope that we left it a better place."