The Carolina Panthers have parted ways with coach Ron Rivera, owner David Tepper announced Tuesday.
Secondary coach Perry Fewell has been named interim head coach. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will transition to special assistant to the head coach, and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner will serve as offensive coordinator.
“I believe this is the best decision for the long-term success of our team,” Tepper said in a statement. “I have a great deal of respect for Ron and the contributions he has made to this franchise and to this community. I wish him the best. I will immediately begin the search for the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers.”
Tepper added that he planned to add executives to “complement our current football staff,” likely meaning that general manager Marty Hurney will remain in his position.
“We are going to take a comprehensive and thorough review of our football operation to make sure we are structured for long-term sustained success,” Tepper said. “Our vision is to find the right mix of old-school discipline and toughness with modern and innovative processes. We will consider a wide range of football executives to complement our current football staff. One change that we will implement is hiring an assistant general manager and vice president of football operations. We all must recognize that this is the first step in a process, but we are committed to building and maintaining a championship culture for our team and our fans.”
Rivera ended his nine-year tenure at Carolina as the winningest coach in team history, with a 76-63-1 regular season record and a 3-4 postseason mark. He was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year and took the team to Super Bowl 50 following the 2015 season, but finished with only three winning seasons since taking over in 2011. The Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
Rivera had a 12-16 record the past two seasons after Tepper spent an NFL-record $2.275 billion to purchase the Panthers from longtime owner Jerry Richardson.
It is unclear which direction Tepper will go in his search for a replacement, but as a former minority owner with the Steelers and a native of Pittsburgh he could look to that organization for help.
As for what the staff changes mean for one-time MVP Cam Newton, recovering from a Lisfranc injury that ended his season after Week 2, that remains to be seen. Tepper said when he told reporters he would not accept long-term mediocrity that the first priority was to get Newton healthy.
Tepper likely will let the new general manager and head coach make the final decision on Newton, 30, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Rivera, who turns 58 on January 7, shouldn’t have trouble finding another job as either a head coach or defensive coordinator. He took over the defensive play-calling late last season in an attempt to turn the defense around and continued in that role this season.
He is looked at as one of the best defensive minds in the game league wide.