Ron Rivera, the former All-America linebacker at Cal who had coached the NFL's Carolina Panthers for the past nine years, was fired on Tuesday.
Rivera guided the Panthers to a 76-63-1 record in the regular season and a 3-4 postseason mark. Carolina won three NFC South titles and lost to Denver 24-10 in Super Bowl 50 on Feb. 7, 2016 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.
But the Panthers are 5-7 this season and on track to miss the playoffs for a second straight year.
The team is 29-31 since the Super Bowl appearance and has not won a playoff game over that span.
On Tuesday night, Rivera told the team's website that his time in Carolina were "great years."
"We did a lot," Rivera told the site. "The people. We brought in good men, good coaches. We did things the right way."
“I believe this is the best decision for the long-term success of our team,” Panthers team owner David Tepper said. “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.”
Rivera, 57, will be replaced on an interim basis by secondary coach Perry Fewell. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will transition to special assistant to the head coach, and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner will serve as offensive coordinator.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, 30, wrote on his Instagram story that Rivera's firing "hurt deep" and that he "will be forever grateful because of the impact (Rivera) had on my life." He thanked Rivera for "giving me an opportunity" and "for believing in me."
"I can go on and on but most importantly; thank you for allowing me to be me," wrote Newton, whom the Panthers made the first pick of the 2011 draft.
Running back Christian McCaffrey drafted eighth overall by the Panthers in 2017, also posted a tribute to Rivera on his Instagram, writing, "Tough day for Carolina. Thank you to the Coach who believed in me from day 1.
"You represent so much more than a football team. You represent what it means to be a leader and an example to everyone. I will forever be grateful to have played for you. #KeepPounding"
Rivera was Cal's most recent consensus All-America player. As a senior in 1983, he set a still-standing school record with 26.5 tackles for loss. The most famous of those resulted in a game-winning safety in the Bears' season-opener at Texas A&M.
He was co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac-12 in 1983 and MVP of 1984 East-West Shrine Game.
Chosen in the second round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, Rivera played nine seasons with the franchise. In his second season, the Bears went 15-1 and won the Super Bowl.
Rivera was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year (2013 and 2015), leading the Panthers to the NFC title in the latter season.