The NFL’s reigning Coach of the Year is now among the league’s highest-paid coaches.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera received a one-year contract extension that will pay him more than $6 million a year.
Rivera, who led the Panthers to a 17-2 record and a berth in Super Bowl 50 last season, is under contract through the 2018 season.
The Observer first reported the extension Thursday afternoon.
Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman confirmed the extension Thursday.
“It was an easy decision,” Gettleman said. “Ron has worked extremely hard and we are thrilled with our current direction. Mr. (Panthers owner Jerry) Richardson has established a great culture here and Ron is a big part of that.”
The deal was done quietly earlier this spring and was not announced by the team. The Observer reported in February the Panthers had reached out to Rivera about reworking his deal and giving him a raise.
Rivera’s contract puts him among the top 10 highest-paid coaches, alongside Green Bay’s Mike McCarthy, Arizona’s Bruce Arians and Dallas’ Jason Garrett in the $6 million-a-year range.
Seattle’s Pete Carroll ($8 million-plus), New Orleans’ Sean Payton ($8 million) and New England’s Bill Belichick ($7.5 million) are the NFL’s top-earning coaches, according to published reports.
This is Rivera’s second contract extension since succeeding John Fox with Carolina before the 2011 season. The Panthers bumped Rivera’s salary to more than $4 million a year after he was named AP Coach of the Year for the first time following the 2013 season.
Rivera, 54, has a 47-32-1 record in five seasons in his first stint as a head coach. Rivera, a longtime defensive assistant, is the first coach to win the NFC South three years in a row (it had never been done in two consecutive seasons).
Rivera interviewed for nine NFL head-coaching vacancies before the Panthers hired him following a disastrous 2-14 finish in Fox’s lame-duck season. Richardson stuck with Rivera despite losing records his first two years.
Carolina has won 19 of its past 20 regular-season games under Rivera, who was San Diego’s defensive coordinator before coming to Charlotte. Rivera has challenged his team not to get complacent as it prepares for a Super Bowl rematch Sept. 8 at Denver.
Rivera’s assistant coaches all received two-year extensions through the 2017 season, the team announced in February.