Despite his whirlwind of a 24-hour period, Rivera was in good spirits. He cracked a few jokes, noting that his wife Stephanie has already put him to work doing the dishes, and he also seemed genuinely confident, saying he was extremely proud to win “back to back to back titles” with the Panthers. He also declared that he thoroughly enjoyed being a leader of men, in good times and bad, as coach of the Panthers.
Ron Rivera: ‘Proud to Leave Here the Panthers Winningest Head Coach’
Rivera thanked his coaching staff, his secretary, current and former players, and the people who brought him to town to coach the Panthers in the first place. He said his favorite memories simply included watching his players have success over the years.
Rivera said he was especially proud that he took over a 2-14 team and turned them into NFC South Champions. He also noted that he felt his best coaching job was in 2014, despite winning two separate Coach of the Year awards in 2013 and 2015, because he felt he and his team had more issues to navigate in 2014. He also said he was proud of the fact that under his guidance, the Panthers were the first team in NFC South history to win three consecutive division titles. The Saints just became the second team to ever do it this season.
Rivera Was Surprised to Be Fired
When asked if he was surprised by the team’s decision to fire him yesterday, Rivera said that he was. “I thought it would happen at the end of the season,” Rivera said. He also mentioned that he didn’t sleep well last night. “I thought about a lot of the lives I crossed paths with,” he said.
He conceded that another difficult aspect of being fired was having the final talk with his now former team. “It was tough. There’s a lot of good young men in that room.” He said he thanked his former players and let them know that he still believes in them, while also paying tribute to their “tremendous character.”
Rivera singled out Greg Olsen and Eric Reid as being two of his former players who possessed that tremendous character, while also piling huge accolades on Luke Kuechly. “He’s everything you want in a football player, he’s everything you want in a young man,” he said of Kuechly, who he also mentioned could be a future Hall of Fame linebacker.
Rivera Thinks He Will Coach Again
When asked if he thought he would still coach after this season, Rivera did not hesitate. “Absolutely,” he said. “I love coaching…that’s what I want to do…I do believe I will get an opportunity.”
He was also quite moved about the outpouring of love and respect he has received on social media from current and former players. “It meant that I did something right…I really do appreciate the support I’ve gotten from my former players…and the current guys,” Rivera said.
Rivera noted his biggest regret in his tenure with the Panthers was not winning a Super Bowl, and that led to one of the more moving moments in any press conference in recent memory.
To conclude the press conference, Rivera held up two different t-shirts: one that said: “Missed Opportunities,” which was a reference to not winning a Super Bowl with the Panthers, and in a genuinely touching moment, he held up a final t-shirt that said: “Thank You,” as he thanked everyone involved with the franchise for all they had done. The room of reporters were clearly moved, and many shook Rivera’s hand as he exited his final press conference for the Carolina Panthers.