CHARLOTTE – It's a very difficult day for Panthers owner David Tepper.
But a necessary one.
"A very hard move. Ron Rivera, besides being a good coach, is one of the finest men I've ever met in my life. I'll just say that up front," Tepper told Bill Voth of Panthers.com after relieving Rivera of his coaching duties Tuesday afternoon. "As much respect as I have for Ron, I think a change was appropriate to build things the way I want things to be built."
Rivera went 76-63-1 with a 3-4 postseason record. He'll forever be remembered for guiding the 15-1 Panthers to Super Bowl 50 in 2015, the year he was named NFL Coach of the Year. He also became the first coach to claim three consecutive NFC South titles.
But after going 7-9 in 2018 despite starting 6-2, and after this year's team dropped a fourth straight game to fall to 5-7, it was time for a change.
"When I came here two years ago, I wanted to show patience on the football side and see how it was going. On the business side, we made vast and sweeping changes. I didn't want to make those vast and sweeping changes on the football side," Tepper explained.
"I just thought it was time given the way things have gone the last two seasons to put my stamp on this organization on the football side."
The Rivera era is over. Now the Panthers forge ahead with a clearly stated goal to achieve long-term, sustainable success.
"This is the first step in a process," Tepper said. "This is going to be a process. I have to remind people."
Secondary coach Perry Fewell now steps in as interim head coach. It's his opportunity to audition for the role.
But Tepper made this move in-season to immediately begin a wide search for the best candidate.
"There are competitive reasons why I wanted to make sure we were out there looking for all personnel possible for the future," Tepper said. "I didn't want to have any inquiries where Ron didn't know what I was doing. I don't want to be doing things not upfront. It's just not who I am. I'd rather be straight up and honest, and if I'm going to make a change, I'm going to make a change. If I need to talk to people, I need to do it in a straightforward, honest way."
The key question going forward – what does Tepper ultimately want in the next head coach of the Panthers?
"What I want for the organization in general is a mesh of old and new," Tepper said. "Old football discipline, modern processes, modern analytics. But I respect old school discipline, too.
"I want to put the best people in the best positions to be successful."