The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, December 04, 2019 1:00 am

Struggles force Panthers to fire winningest coach

STEVE REED | Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Ron Rivera era has come to an abrupt end in Carolina.

The Panthers fired their all-time winningest head coach with the team on a four-game losing streak and headed to its third non-playoff season in four years.

“I believe this is the best decision for the long-term success of our team,” Panthers owner David Tepper said in a statement Tuesday. “I have a great deal of respect for Ron and the contributions he has made to this franchise and to this community.”

Secondary coach Perry Fewell was been named interim head coach.

Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will transition to special assistant to the head coach, and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner will serve as offensive coordinator.

Tepper said he will begin a search for a new coach immediately.

Rivera was hired in 2011 and was 76-63-1 in the regular season and a 3-4 postseason mark. In nine seasons Rivera guided the team to a Super Bowl appearance, an NFC championship and three NFC South titles.

But the Panthers have fallen on hard times lately following injuries to quarterback Cam Newton the past two seasons. They are 5-7 and are all but eliminated from playoff contention after a 29-21 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday at home. They started the season 5-3. Last year they were 6-2 but lost seven straight to finish 7-9.

Rivera did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment from The Associated Press. His firing might not be the only change coming.

Tepper said long-term mediocrity is not an option for the Panthers.

“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,” he said. “Our vision is to find the right mix of old-school discipline and toughness with modern and innovative processes. ”

Tepper said the team will hire an assistant general manager and vice president of football operations.

Playoff picture

New England, Baltimore and Seattle – all at 10-2 – have the simplest NFL playoff scenarios going into Sunday: Win and they're in. The Patriots can clinch their 11th straight trip to the playoffs at home against AFC West-leading Kansas City (8-4), which is in with a win and an Oakland loss. The Ravens, who hold an advantage for the top seed, play at Buffalo and will wrap up the AFC North with a win and a Pittsburgh loss or tie. South champion New Orleans (10-2) is the only NFC team to clinch so far. The Seahawks and San Francisco are tied for the NFC West and both will qualify with wins because Seattle is playing Los Angeles. The 49ers are in if the Rams lose and they beat or tie the Saints.

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