Ron Rivera Led the Panthers to a Super Bowl. The Owner Who Fired Him Wasn’t Around Then.

After the Carolina Panthers (5-7) lost to the lowly Washington Redskins (3-9) on Sunday, all but ensuring that they will miss the playoffs for the third time in the past four seasons, it was perhaps only a question of when, not if, Coach Ron Rivera would lose his job.

On Tuesday, the team’s owner, David A. Tepper, made the move, firing Rivera with four games remaining on the schedule. While he named secondary coach Perry Fewell as interim head coach, Tepper also made it clear that there will be other job openings.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

Owners, of course, have the prerogative to hire whomever they want, whenever they want. The question in the case of the Panthers is: Why now?

Tepper inherited Rivera and his staff when he bought the team 18 months ago and is trying to revamp the team, not just the football staff, but also its business operations. Tepper has already announced plans for a new practice facility in South Carolina and is seeking to upgrade or replace the team’s stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina. Tepper is also looking to buy an M.L.S. franchise.

Revitalizing the Panthers is a major priority. Rivera is the franchise’s winningest coach (at 76-63-1), having led the team to four playoff appearances in nine years, including one Super Bowl appearance. But for all his success, Rivera was a vestige of when Jerry Richardson owned the team. Richardson sold the team to Tepper in 2018 after facing sexual harassment allegations.

Since the Super Bowl appearance in 2015, the Panthers have finished with a losing record three times. Last season, the team started 6-2 before losing seven games. This season, the team started 4-2, even after losing quarterback Cam Newton to injury in the second game, then lost five of the next six games. Newton, a one-time Most Valuable Player Award winner, has been out since early November after aggravating an injury to a ligament in his left foot, and his recovery has been a touchy, but much discussed, topic.

Tepper told reporters after the announcement that he wanted to begin the search for a new coach and potentially other members of the staff immediately, not at the end of the season, when teams typically make coaching changes. Having made that decision, Tepper wanted to be up front with Rivera.

“I was informed of other teams doing different types of searches out there, and I’m not going to start a search and not tell Ron Rivera I’m starting a search, full stop,” Tepper said. “He’s a great human being and I’m not going to disrespect anybody like that, especially a guy like Ron Rivera.”

Rivera, who is Hispanic, was one of only four non-white head coaches this season in a league that has struggled with diversity among coaches. By letting Rivera go during the regular season, Tepper can start speaking to college coaches and evaluate his interim coaches. (The league’s tampering policy prevents him from interviewing N.F.L. coaches during the season.) In 2016, Doug Marrone, an assistant head coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars, became interim head coach when Gus Bradley was fired. His audition went well and was hired as the coach after the season.

Tepper will also need to decide whether to replace the team’s general manager, Marty Hurney. Some owners replace coaches and general managers separately. But teams like the Seattle Seahawks filled both spots at once when they hired coach Pete Carroll and John Schneider as the general manager. Some owners prefer a coach who has control over roster decisions, while other owners prefer that general managers take that role, said Jed Hughes, the vice chairman of the global sports practice at Korn Ferry who has advised owners on these decisions.

“What is the structure of the organization going to be,” Hughes said. “The question is, will this person report to the owner or the general manager?”

In 2018, Hughes studied the success of teams based on when their coaches and general managers were hired. Teams that had coaches in place when general managers were added won 58 percent of their games. Teams which had general managers in place when new coaches were hired won 56 percent of the time. Teams that hired coaches and general managers at the same time won 51 percent of their games.

As for Rivera, Hughes said his job prospects remain strong because of his success as a coach — he was named Coach of the Year by The Associated Press in 2013 and 2015 — and his reputation as a solid manager. One possible fit for Rivera could be the New York Giants (2-10), if they decide to replace coach Pat Shurmur. Rivera worked well with general manager Dave Gettleman when the two were at the Panthers.

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