Rivera: It's All About Character

Scott Hamilton

CHARLOTTE -- Ron Rivera addressed the media Wednesday morning, one day after he was fired as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

Rivera, 57, spoke for about 30 minutes. During that time he reflected to what he experienced when he was hired nine years ago; during his stint as the team's fourth head coach; and when he was let go by owner David Tepper. He also touched on the pride he felt leading Carolina to three straight division titles as well as his own future.

On taking over a losing team:

“I’m proud I took over a 2-14 team and won back-to-back-to-back NFC South division titles. I want to reemphasize – I’m proud I took over a 2-14 team and that I won back to back to back. See the emphasis? Three in a row. Whether you define it by wins or losses or define it by winning the division, to me it’s three years in a row of consecutive winning. OK? I want to make sure we’re straight on that. 

"I get tired of hearing ‘they couldn’t win two years in a row.’ No, we won three years in a row so let’s get that straight. And we were the first team in the NFC South to do that, so I’m pretty doggone proud of that. I’m proud ot have been part of the 2015 NFC championship team that represented the NFC in Super Bowl 50. And I’m proud to leave here the winningest Panthers head coach.”

Dealing with problems and incidents on and off the field:

“Being a head coach is more than just the Xs and Os. It’s getting up in front of y’all (the media) … when there’s controversy and adversity. And in nine years, I’ve had my share. I’ve been the spokesperson each and every time something needed to be addressed. I know I handled those difficult times with as much grace as I could and with a personal resolve to do what is right – tell you guys the truth.”

Surprise that he was let go with four games to go:

"I was surprised just because, if anything, I thought it would happen at the end of the season, to be honest with you. I know he’d talked about doing some things differently and I get that. That’s part of the business of owning a football team. And at the end of the day -- when you lose football games and you have a chance to win them -- that’s a tough pill to swallow.”

Memories of his tenure with Carolina:

“There’s so many really good moments – there really are. I think the thing that hit me the most is when you see the guys have success. It could be something as simple as a player finally understanding a play, something that happens. There really were so many of them. But I will remember. And I really appreciate that the team gave me a painting, an image, of something they put together for me and it was all about the 2015 team. And I have a picture of the six team captains with the NFC trophy. That will be among my fondest memories.”

On his last meeting with the team:

“I tried to wing it. It was tough -- it was. Because there’s a lot of really good young men in that room -- there really are. I just wanted to make sure they knew how much I appreciated them, how much I believe in them. I wanted to make sure I thanked them, I thanked the coaches and the support staff that were in there. It was cool, it really was. It’s a great group of young men. 

"It’s funny. One of the things I always tell the players is the best team has a great sense of family. The best family has a great sense of culture. Within that culture, there’s tremendous character, and when you think about that last phrase, ‘There is tremendous character,’ there’s a lot of young men in there that have tremendous character. A lot of guys that fight through a lot of things, a lot of guys that have to deal with a lot of stuff, not just on the football field, but off the football field. 

"I pointed out guys like Greg Olsen, who’s dealt with his son’s heart situation and through all that has been a champion on the football field. I mentioned Eric Reid, whose strong belief and never wavering on that speaks to his tremendous character. 

"And I wanted to remind those players that at the end of the day when you walk out that door, as I will pretty soon, it’s all about your character. I think that’s really important, and I wanted to make sure I talked about that.”

On his future:

“(Do I want to) coach again? Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve got four weeks off until the start of the new season. Well, actually a little bit longer until February, but my intent is to coach again. 

"I love coaching -- and not just coaching because it’s about winning football games, but coaching because you have the opportunity to impact young men and people. And that’s what I want to do. I want to be able to coach people and impact people and win football games and hopefully win a Super Bowl.

"Somebody wanted to ask me my biggest regret? My biggest regret is not winning the Super Bowl. I know I stood up in front when I first got the job and told people I was going to win a Super Bowl -- and that’s my biggest regret as the head coach of this football team is that we didn’t win it. We got there and we had our chance, we had our opportunity.”

Reflecting back on his hiring and his future:

“One of the thing that (former owner Jerry) Richardson asked me in our interview was how long do you want ot be a head coach and I said eight or 10 years. And he said ‘why only eight?’ And I said ‘I don’t know. Maybe after eight, nine or 10 then maybe it’s time for a change.’ But who knows – maybe that’s what this is? But I do know this more than anything else: I do believe in the way I do things, I do believe in who I am and I do believe I will get an opportunity and I will coach again.”

What he would say in his next job interview:

“There are a lot of things I would do differently, there really are. 

I think I’ve got the right kind of experience -- I do. I just think that having gone through the things that I’ve gone through, been through the things that we’ve been through, been where we’ve been, it gives me experience. 

It doesn’t mean I’ll be better than anybody else, but what it does give me is perspective. I’ve had perspective. And I told this to the players: I played in this league, I was fortunate to play. 

It doesn’t mean I’m going to be a better coach than anybody, but it means I’m a coach who has perspective. Well, I’m a coach that has perspective, I’ve been through it. 

Like I told you guys: at the end of the day, it’s production-based. You don’t produce then it’s time to move on. 

I’m kind of excited, I really am. I’m really looking forward to a lot of opportunities. I’m looking forward to a little bit of time. I was looking forward to a little bit of rest, but (wife) Stephanie already had me doing the dishes last night, so that’s a little different.”

You can watch Rivera's full farewell media conference here.