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Carolina coach Rivera not sure about his future with Panthers

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Associated Press
11/19/2012 2:35:37 PM
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ron Rivera said based on recent conversations with team owner Jerry Richardson he doesn't know if he'll remain the Carolina Panthers head coach beyond this season.

Rivera said Richardson didn't offer him any guarantees, but said "I know that nothing is going to happen until after the season."

Rivera's coaching seat got a little hotter after the Panthers (2-8) suffered yet another fourth quarter meltdown Sunday, losing 27-21 to Tampa Bay in overtime. Rivera is 8-18 in his two seasons as Carolina's coach.

Richardson fired general manager Marty Hurney four weeks ago and Rivera indicated at the time his own future was tied to Carolina's ability to start "trending upward" the rest of the season.

But the Panthers are just 1-3 since Hurney was ousted.

With a new general manager coming in at some point, Rivera has reason to be concerned. He knows many GMs like to assemble their own coaching staff. Rivera said he most recently spoke to Richardson on Friday and said the owner has been "supportive" and "fair and open" with him.

But Rivera also knows the NFL is a production-based business.

"With him it's 'Ron, we've got to get things going. I know it's frustrating on you and your coaches' because it's frustrating on him," Rivera said of Richardson.

Richardson was unavailable for comment.

Rivera, 50, said this season has been frustrating with the Panthers losing a number of close games, including four of which they've held a lead in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Cam Newton said the closes losses have been "the story of the season."

Rivera said knowing the Panthers are good enough to beat teams like Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Seattle and Tampa Bay is sometimes more difficult to swallow than if they were losing by 14 points every game.

"There just seems to be something missing," Rivera said.

The Panthers set out with a goal to win the Super Bowl, but 10 weeks into the season they've already been eliminated from contention to win the NFC South.

"It's tough when you lose (because) things aren't as good as they are when you win, obviously," Rivera said. "Food doesn't taste right. It's difficult to communicate with people looking them in the eye and talking to them. It's hard, and I get it."

Defensive end Charles Johnson, the team's highest-paid player and a captain, took to Twitter after Sunday's loss to express his frustration over the Panthers giving up an 11-point lead with six minutes to play against the Bucs.

"Embarrassed to be a part of that last drive! Some people study and work harder than others and they get expose(d) in the game," Johnson wrote.

Johnson said Monday the frustration wasn't directed at any teammate or member of the coaching staff and in hindsight he should have kept the comments in house, something Rivera urged him to do next time.

But Johnson said he supports Rivera.

"You can't worry about who is going to go and who is going to stay. That is for the front office to decide," Johnson said. "But I'm going to fight with coach until the end. No matter what he does I'm going to ride with him. He's trying to lead us to the right place, so you have to stick with him."

Rivera said he thinks he has what it takes to turn things around in Carolina given time.

He's in the second year of a four-year contract.

"I'd like to believe that we're doing things the right way - not completely obviously because we've lost too many games in close situations," Rivera said.

He points to the players' work ethic and the extra time they put in after practice as examples that they're willing and eager to get better and the team is headed in the right direction.

"I was on a team when I first started coaching that wasn't very good and as soon as practice was over the players couldn't wait to leave," Rivera said. "I'm on a team right now where when practice ends, you've got guys catching balls and guys walking through protections. You'll see the DBs staying out there and working on their technique. There's a commitment that they're still making. ... (But) we haven't won. That's the hard part."

After the game a linebacker Thomas Davis and other Carolina players expressed concern over Rivera's job security because of their inability to close out games.

"I'll be all right," Rivera said. "No matter what happens, I'll be OK. Whether I'm here next year or not, I will be A-OK. I will go forward. I will make things happen. I will do things. Whether it's here or somewhere else, I will. I believe in who I am and firmly believe in my abilities as a coach."

Ron Rivera (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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