Panthers franchise-changing moment No. 6: Hiring Ron Rivera in 2011
After long-time head coach John Fox was fired, the Panthers hired former Chicago Bear linebacker Ron Rivera to be the next head coach. Safe to say that decision worked out well.
However, even though Rivera won two Coach of the Year awards, three division titles, and one conference championship, he struggled early on in his tenure. There was a segment of the Panthers fanbase who wanted Rivera canned after a 1-3 start in 2013 and two losing seasons prior.
Thus began the legacy of Riverboat Ron. A nickname given to Rivera after he began to “gamble” by going for it on 4th downs in short distance situations, deciding to coach as if he had nothing to lose, and at the time, he really did have nothing to lose.
His leadership alongside his players led Carolina to finish the season going 11-1 in their last twelve games. Winning the NFC South over the despised New Orleans Saints, he helped win Carolina their 1st division title in 5 years. And he won coach of the year as well.
Alongside division titles in 2014 and 2015, Rivera cemented himself as one of the best coaches in the NFL. Although, despite that, the Panthers organization decided to fire Rivera in 2019 after a second consecutive losing season. Choosing to go in a different direction with the 2020 hiring of Matt Rhule.
Even if Rivera’s tenure had low lows, it also had high highs. And he helped lead the Panthers to places that the franchise had never gone before. What he did for the organization will never be forgotten.