Pan­thers owner lean­ing to­ward of­fen­sive-minded head coach

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - AP Sports Writer

By Steve Reed

CHAR­LOTTE, N.C. (AP) >> Pan­thers owner David Tep­per has hinted that Carolina’s next head coach will be some­one with an of­fen­sive back­ground.

“In the mod­ern NFL, I think there is a pref­er­ence for of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tors (and) I think there are rea­sons for that,” Tep­per said late Tues­day. “That does not mean that if you find some­body fan­tas­tic on the de­fen­sive side, I won’t con­sider it. If he has old­school dis­ci­pline and mod­ern and in­no­va­tive pro­cesses.”

Tep­per fired long­time coach Ron Rivera on Tues­day af­ter four straight losses left the Pan­thers (57) out of se­ri­ous play­off con­tention for the third time in four sea­sons.

Rivera said Wed­nes­day that he doesn’t be­lieve his coach­ing ca­reer is over.

In his fi­nal news con­fer­ence at Bank of Amer­ica Sta­dium Rivera said he will take the next four weeks off but is ea­ger to coach again next sea­son.

“I do be­lieve I will get an­other op­por­tu­nity, and I will coach again,” Rivera said.

The 57-year-old Rivera opened his news con­fer­ence by adamantly de­fend­ing his ac­com­plish­ments in his nine sea­sons in Carolina. He took over a 2-14 team, won three straight NFC South ti­tles and led the Pan­thers to the Su­per Bowl.

He leaves with a 73-61-1 record, more wins than any Pan­thers coach

But Rivera was a coach with a de­fen­sive back­ground, and Tep­per said the NFL has im­ple­mented rules that fa­vor the of­fense. The owner said that ben­e­fits teams with a head coach that has an of­fen­sive back­ground.

“That’s why you’re hav­ing more peo­ple go that way,” said Tep­per, who bought the Pan­thers in 2018 and did not hire Rivera, who was al­ready in place. “I think you have a lot of peo­ple on that side ac­cept­ing the more mod­ern pro­cesses.”

Tep­per has spo­ken re­peat­edly about his dis­taste for the “long-term medi­ocrity” that has plagued the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Rivera said he be­lieves the team’s strug­gles the past two sea­sons are di­rectly tied to quar­ter­back Cam New­ton’s in­juries. New­ton strug­gled through shoul­der prob­lems in the sec­ond half of last sea­son and played only two games this sea­son be­cause of a foot is­sue which may re­quire surgery.

“The big­gest thing that con­trib­uted to our longterm medi­ocrity the last two sea­sons is that we didn’t have our quar­ter­back sit­u­a­tion set­tled,” Rivera said. “.... Our prob­lems didn’t start un­til when? Un­til our quar­ter­back got hurt.”

Rivera said he was sur­prised Tep­per fired him with four games left in the sea­son.

“I thought, if any­thing, it’d hap­pen at the end of the sea­son . ... but at the end of the day you have to win foot­ball games,” Rivera said.

Tep­per said he’ll form an in-house com­mit­tee to lead the coach­ing search, which will com­mence im­me­di­ately.

It does not ap­pear he’s in the mar­ket for a col­lege head coach, talk­ing about how dif­fi­cult the tran­si­tion to the NFL level can be. He also said he wants a coach who will try new things, but if they don’t work is will­ing to ac­knowl­edge the mis­take and fix the prob­lem.

“You want to be suc­cess­ful? I don’t care what you do, ad­mit when you do things wrong,” Tep­per said. “Fix what you do and keep do­ing the things you do right. It’s not that hard. What’s hard is for peo­ple to ad­mit that they’ve made a mis­take.”

For now, Perry Fewell will serve as Carolina’s in­terim coach.

Re­gard­less of who he hires as a full-time coach, Tep­per must ad­here to the Rooney Rule which re­quires NFL own­ers to in­ter­view mi­nor­ity can­di­dates. Fewell is an African-Amer­i­can, but Tep­per said that is not why he pro­moted him.

He said Fewell the best man for the job right now call­ing him a “gen­eral” who com­mands at­ten­tion from the room.

BRIAN BLANCO - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

FILE - In this Sun­day, Dec. 1, 2019, file photo, Carolina Pan­thers head coach Ron Rivera leaves the field fol­low­ing an NFL foot­ball game against the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins in Char­lotte, N.C. The Pan­thers fired Rivera on Tues­day, Dec. 3, 2019, part­ing ways with him with four games left in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

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