Today, in what was a shock to many people, Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper announced that he had fired Ron Rivera and would immediately begin the search for the teams new Head Coach.
The news came within 48 hours of the team’s defeat to the 2-9 Washington Redskins, an embarrassing result that served as the final nail in the coffin for the teams playoff hopes and ultimately their Head Coach’s tenure.
More than anything, it is the timing of this decision that has left many surprised and also drawn criticism from others who believe this was an unfair way to part with a coach who had achieved many things with the team. Guiding them to a Super Bowl appearance and becoming the winningest coach in franchise history just to name a couple.
To many though, this was a decision that felt inevitable since Tepper bought the team back in the Off-Season of 2018. Renowned for being heavily into analytics as a businessman, it was always going to be a clash of ideology with Rivera having a much more old school approach to the game. He always opted for tough defense and running the ball whilst also seeming to ditch his ‘Riverboat’ ways that made him so popular in the early part of his Head Coaching career.
With this style of management, it seems easy to say with hindsight that the game would always catch up with him. His matchups with division rival coaches Sean Payton and Dan Quinn always seemed to serve as reminders that Ron was an old dog without many new tricks.
Payton’s New Orleans team have beaten the Panthers in each of the teams last 5 meetings when starters haven’t rested, whilst the Falcons are 7-2 against Carolina since Dan Quinn became their Head Coach in 2015.
The legacy that Ron leaves in Carolina is a confusing one. Whilst the majority would agree it was time to make a change, the argument of whether his 9 years in Carolina should be deemed a success will be debated for years to come.
On one hand, you have a guy that took over the team with the league’s worst record and had them polished into back-to-back-to-back division winners and NFC champs by his 5th season, picking up a couple Coach of the Year awards along the way too.
On the other, someone who was gifted a generational Quarterback in Cam Newton and not only couldn’t put a consistently successful team around him, but also put Cam’s career in serious jeopardy with gross mismanagement of his health.
This firing will no doubt be the first of many changes that take place this off season, and it could be a complete break with the past for this team as the rumors of this being Newton’s last year as a Panther just will not go away. Should Carolina part ways with Number 1, the bitter feeling toward Ron may grow as large as it ever has even after his departure from the team. Mismanagement of a star is one thing, leaving him so badly injured that he is deemed surplus to requirements? Unforgivable.
General Manager Marty Hurney is another key figure who many believed would part ways with the team sooner rather than later, though quotes from David Tepper’s press conference seem to suggest he is safe, at least for now.
All in all, this can be seen as the 1st real day of the Tepper’s regime for the Carolina Panthers. After maintaining a fairly low profile for so long and not interfering with the football side of operations, the owner looks set to begin his project of completely reshaping the makeup of this team. Don’t be surprised if we see more big statements in the coming months.