A year ago, the Carolina Panthers had a new general manager and a head coach on the hot seat.
Now, Ron Rivera has security. The Panthers head coach was granted a three-year extension, the team announced on Tuesday, meaning he will be under contract through the 2017 season.
Even after a 1-3 start, the Panthers went on to win the NFC South, claim the NFC's No. 2 seed and amass a 12-4 record. And it was after the Panthers' Week 2 loss to the Buffalo Bills, a last-second stunner, that "Riverboat Ron" was born.
Rivera chose to go for a field goal deep in Buffalo territory late in the game on a fourth-and-short play, and it came back to haunt him as the Bills drove down the field for the win. Riding to the airport after the game, Rivera pledged to change his way of coaching, which often was chalked up to being too conservative.
The nickname — even if Rivera didn't much care for it — was born soon afterward, and the Panthers became one of the best teams in the NFL on fourth downs. Their aggressive mentality carried over into other facets of the team, and the Panthers used their strong defensive core and Cam Newton-led offense to lead to Rivera's finest season as a head coach.
Rivera now is 25-23 in three NFL seasons, losing in his only postseason game this season to the San Francisco 49ers.
The Panthers have a great core to build around, and they should remain in contention for the next several years. The extension clearly reflects this, and it's clear that he and GM Dave Gettleman have found a way to forge a good working relationship despite having never worked together previously.
Rivera and his staffed coached at the Pro Bowl last week, and Gettleman took the opportunity to vent his frustration about reports that had come out early in the 2013 season about him compiling a list of potential replacements for Rivera. Gettleman said no such list existed then and never did, and he backed up his talk this week by keeping Rivera around for much longer.
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