Ron Rivera had a huge year in Carolina. On the verge of losing his job after a 1-3 start, Rivera coached the Panthers to a 12-4 record, NFC South title and first-round bye in the NFC playoffs. He even won NFL Coach of the Year and inked a three-year contract extension. But, despite all the accomplishments, Rivera is still striving for more.
“The status quo doesn’t work,” Rivera told the Charlotte Observer of his expectations for next season. “We went to stay relevant. We want to be in everybody’s conversation.”
After an impressive 2013, the Panthers certainly will be talked about as a Super Bowl contender entering next season, even if their performance in the playoffs raises questions about their ability to unseat the NFC and Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks.
The Panthers were rocked at home by the San Francisco 49ers in the divisional round, falling 23-10 in an all-around ugly performance. The game was chippy from start to finish, with multiple Panthers players drawing personal foul penalties. Rivera said his team was overmatched by the 49ers’ postseason experience, and he accepted some of the responsibility for letting the Niners get the Panthers out of their comfort zone.
“We lost our composure,” Rivera said. “I should have said, ‘Sit down, shut up and do your job.’ But I got caught up in it, too, offering some choice words to the referees.”
With a few key pieces to the Panthers’ puzzle, such a free-agents-to-be defensive end Greg Hardy and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, still uncertain, Rivera will have a lot of work to do this offseason to get Carolina back to the playoffs, and beyond, next season.
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