The Carolina Panthers moved Saturday to provide some much-needed stability to a franchise rocked by allegations of workplace misconduct by owner Jerry Richardson.
A day before the Panthers’ playoff game at New Orleans, coach Ron Rivera signed a two-year contract extension through the 2020 season, the team announced.
The extension is worth $15.5 million over the 2019 and 2020 seasons, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Rivera signed a three-year, $19.5 million extension two years ago that was set to expire in 2018.
“I’m very excited about it because I really like where we are as a football team,” Rivera said in a release. “We’ve done some really good things and we have an opportunity to do more. Things are in place and we can continue this success. We’ve had consistency of winning and we’ve gone to the playoffs four out of five years.”
The deal is the first move by Tina Becker as chief operating officer of the team. Becker was promoted to the position after Richardson stepped away from daily duties last month.
Richardson announced in December he would sell the Panthers when the season concludes, following a Sports Illustrated report of sexual and racial misconduct.
By locking Rivera up now, the Panthers avoid a lame-duck coaching scenario in what already will be a major transitional year for the organization. Also in flux is the general manager position, after Richardson’s surprising firing of former GM Dave Gettleman just days before Carolina’s training camp this year. The Panthers hired Marty Hurney, the team’s GM from 2002-12, in an interim role and his contract extends through the 2018 NFL draft, according to a source familiar with the document.
Carolina also does not have a team president, after Danny Morrison left the organization suddenly last spring. A six-person executive team, which included Becker, filled Morrison’s role.
Rivera, who turns 56 on Sunday, has the Panthers (11-5) back in the playoffs for the fourth time in the past five seasons. The former defensive coordinator for Chicago and San Diego guided the Panthers to a 15-1 regular-season record and the club’s second Super Bowl appearance two years ago.
Rivera was hired in 2011 after John Fox went 2-14 as a lame-duck coach in 2010.
He has a 64-47-1 record in seven years — good for a franchise-best .576 winning percentage. Rivera was named the AP Coach of the Year after the 2013 and ’15 seasons. He also has never had back-to-back winning seasons – something that has also eluded the franchise overall.
“This is a tremendous place with tremendous support from ownership and the people that work in the organization,” Rivera said. “And I really appreciate the support we’ve gotten from our fans in the Carolinas. That’s a big reason why I want to continue my association with this organization.”