Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera is an unsung hero

“Riverboat” Ron deserves mounds of praise for leading the Carolina Panthers.

It’s safe to say that 2015 was a special year for the Carolina Panthers. Not only did this team move to 15-1 and appear in its second Super Bowl, there were lists of postseason awards handed out to this team. Perhaps the most deserving of the group was the Coach of the Year award that was earned by Ron Rivera.

When talking about Coach Rivera, the name “Riverboat Ron” is always mentioned in affection. However, it is that same nature that helped the Panthers not only win three NFC South titles in a row, but pushed this team to a historic season. The Panthers performance in 2015 not only secured him as one of the most important coaches within the league today, but creates an interesting chapter to a career in which he was almost fired well before this opportunity even came.

Rewind the clock to December 2012. The Panthers had a record of 3-9, well outside of the title picture and headed towards another year of mediocrity. Michael Lombardi of the NFL Network stuck to his guns that the Panthers were planning on firing the embattled coach. Not only did the organization turn the other cheek, but they stood behind a coach that pushed this organization to exceed the expectations that nearly everyone else in the league placed on them.

What was the turning point? Perhaps it came in that December when Rivera held a press conference that was planned to be his last. According to David Newton of ESPN, Rivera was given his word by Panthers owner Jerry Richardson that he wouldn’t make a decision until the end of the season. That gave Rivera the assurance that he could put his attention towards where it was needed; winning games. After that December report by Lombardi, the Panthers went on a trend that would follow the organization for much of the two years following: they won.

Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) dabs during the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Jan 24, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) dabs during the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Championship football game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Since that press conference the Panthers have a 38-13-1 record. Even more important, this unit has built a air of camaraderie that influences the locker room in a way that impacts how they perform on the field. Throughout the year much of the conversation followed quarterback Cam Newton and whether or not he should be considered the Most Valuable Player. Newton ended the season with that great acclaim, but Rivera wasn’t getting the attention as the potential candidate for Coach of the Year. In the end, he walked away with an important addition to his resume at the perfect time.

While the Panthers didn’t win the Super Bowl to close out a spectacular 2015, Rivera’s recognition as Coach of the Year stands out as an award that was certainly well deserved. Thankfully for Rivera, the team and the fans, Lombardi was incorrect when he predicted that Rivera would be fired as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Richardson’s promise would not only give the team the chance to reach a point of success previously unknown to the organization, but it created an air of excitement heading into the 2016 season that Carolina hasn’t experienced in a long time.

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