As the Panthers prepare to change ownership, they've ensured their leadership remains the same for several years to come.
Ron Rivera, the two time NFL Coach of the Year, and Carolina agreed on a two-year contract extension through 2020, the team confirmed Saturday. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport first reported the two sides were close on a deal.
"I’m very excited about it because I really like where we are as a football team,” Rivera said, via the team website. “We’ve done some really good things and we have an opportunity to do more. Things are in place and we can continue this success. We’ve had consistency of winning and we’ve gone to the playoffs four out of five years.
“This is a tremendous place with tremendous support from ownership and the people that work in the organization. And I really appreciate the support we’ve gotten from our fans in the Carolinas. That’s a big reason why I want to continue my association with this organization.”
This is the first major move engineered by Tina Becker, who was recently promoted to Chief Operating Officer, with Jerry Richardson stepping away from the Panthers amid sexual and racial misconduct allegations, triggering the impending team sale.
Rivera, 55, has coached the Panthers the past seven seasons, compiling a 64-47-1 mark. Carolina, the NFC's No. 5 seed — which visits New Orleans Sunday afternoon in the wild-card weekend finale — is back in the playoffs for the fourth time in seven seasons under Rivera.
Rivera signed a one-year extension following the 2016 season and his club's appearance in Super Bowl 50 that went through 2018. Already one of the NFL's highest-paid coaches, he'll get more security — two additional years totaling $15.5 millions, per Rapoport — after the Panthers rebounded from their Super Bowl hangover season to go 11-5 in their the third double-digit win season under Rivera.
But the Panthers have been in flux off the field, where they fired GM David Gettleman in July and Richardson announced he was selling the club in December, days after an SI report surfaced with details of his alleged misconduct.
It makes perfect sense that the Panthers took measures to ensure the stabilizing presence in Rivera remains at the forefront of the franchise as its ownership changes hands. It remains to be seen what Rivera's extension means for interim GM Marty Hurney, who replaced Gettleman in July and originally hired Rivera in 2011, but it would seem to bode well for Hurney's chances of having the interim tag removed.