Rivera Brings a New Attitude to Panthers

The Carolina Panthers have a new head coach and he's bringing in a new attitude. After signing a four-year contract worth $11.2 million to become the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera took on a serious no-nonsense tone in his introductory press conference and talked about changing the team's persona.

"I'd like it to be an aggressive, physical football team, whether it be running the football or throwing the football and pass protecting," Rivera said.

"We're tackling (on defense). I want to get back to tackling. I'm tired of watching players head-butt each other and try to knock people out instead of hitting and wrapping up and taking them to the ground. I want it to be a physical, no-nonsense, get-the-job-done identity. I think that's important."

Rivera said his plan is to develop the team's young core of players by hiring assistant coaches that are eager to teach.

"Every opportunity you get to teach, you teach," Rivera said.

Rivera said he's already broken down the tape of the Panthers roster and believes there's plenty of talent. But he added the team may need to upgrade at certain positions, mentioning tight end as one possibility.

This was reportedly Rivera's ninth attempt at landing a head coaching job.

"I almost want to say relief," Rivera said of finally breaking through. "When you get into playing, you strive for one thing and that's to be a Super Bowl champion. When you get into coaching, you strive to be a Super Bowl-winning coach. And that's what my goal is."

He'll approach that goal the way he always has -- with toughness.

"I don't think you need to explode and yell and scream and curse all the time," Rivera said. "I think if you don't do it all the time -- if you do it for emphasis -- it carries the point. That's one of the teaching techniques I use. If I have to raise my voice or if I have to get into somebody's face, then I will do so. But for the most part, I want to treat these guys like men."

The announcement of his hire came just nine days after John Fox's final game with the 2-14 Panthers.

Fox took the Panthers to two NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl in 2003 but couldn't put together back-to-back winning seasons and Richardson cited that as the reason he was let go. Rivera wants to take the Panthers one step further.

"My goal's not to just get to the NFC championship or get to the Super Bowl, but to win," he said. "... My goal is to come here and become a Super Bowl winning head coach and to sustain an atmosphere of winning."

NOTES, QUOTES


DE Charles Johnson
Rick Havner/AP
New head coach Ron Rivera said the Carolina Panthers will stick with a 4-3 defense -- something they've used the previous nine seasons under John Fox -- but the scheme will have some 3-4 tendencies.

"I think that is what the personnel setup is," Rivera said. "I think if we can make a couple of additions we will be a solid unit and have success early. I like the situation here. There are some elements of the 3-4 that we can use the personnel properly and give our opponents a little bit of trouble."

Rivera said the Panthers will add some pieces on defense but overall he likes what he's seen from that side of the ball.

--As for fixing the league's worst offense from 2010, Rivera hinted the Panthers will be asking for permission from other teams this week to interview potential candidates for the vacant offensive coordinator position.

According to league sources, the leading candidate is Rob Chudzinski, who worked with Rivera in San Diego as head coach Norv Turner's tight ends coach.

Regardless of the Panthers hire, Rivera said he will need to have a say in what happens on that side of the ball, too.

"I'm not turning anybody loose in terms of, 'Do what you want,'" he said.

Rivera talked about wanting a balanced offense, something the Panthers haven't had since they won the NFC South in 2008.

In 2010 the Panthers finished last in the league in points scored and total offense. Their passing game was particularly atrocious, finishing dead last in the league while posting the worst quarterback rating in franchise history.

"We have to be aggressive and we have to be innovative and we have to attack as well on the offensive side of the ball," Rivera said. "We can't sit back and try to hold teams."

--The Panthers began the coaching search with four candidates and never got beyond that.

General manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison traveled by private jet to meet with Rob Ryan in Cleveland, Perry Fewell in New York, Greg Manusky in San Francisco and Ron Rivera in San Diego during a whirlwind week-long, cross-country trip. After meeting for six hours with Rivera in a San Diego area hotel, Hurney and Morrison were convinced he was their guy.

Rivera and his wife Stephanie flew back with them to Charlotte on Monday to meet with owner Jerry Richardson.

Together they all had dinner that night and then met again at Richardson's house on Tuesday. Richardson said he formed a bond with Rivera right away.

"His approach, his demeanor, his style, his experience and the fact that he's been a former player seemed to me to be perfect for us at this particular point in time," Richardson said.

--Rivera, 49, becomes the first minority head coach of the Panthers and the first Latino coach in the NFL since Tom Flores.

"All four were outstanding candidates," Morrison said. "Ron was extremely well prepared and was a great fit."

Rivera worked this past season as the San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator and his unit allowed the fewest yards in the league.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's very prepared and ready for this job. You just look at his track record and you see the job he's done everywhere he's been. I think he's going to be a great hire." -- GM Marty Hurney on new coach Ron Rivera.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

When asked if he views Jimmy Clausen was his starting quarterback heading into next season, new head coach Ron Rivera clearly left that up in the air.

"You assume right now until you find that other guy to come in and compete," Rivera said.

Then he added, "I look forward to getting an opportunity to visit with Jimmy. He is a young man with some talent and some abilities."

It sounds like Clausen is going to have to earn that starting job in training camp -- and it won't be easy.

TEAM NEEDS

1. Quarterback: Jimmy Clausen simply didn't show enough to warrant being the starter next season with only three TD passes in 10 starts and the league-low quarterback rating. The game seemed too fast for him at times. The Panthers have to bring in competition, but Stanford's Andrew Luck's decision to stay in school was a killer for the organization. The Panthers planned to take him with the first pick.

2. Defensive tackle: The Panthers need a big run stuffer in the middle, something they haven't had since Kris Jenkins and Maake Kemoeatu. It makes sense for them to take Auburn's Nick Fairley with the No. 1 pick in the draft.

3. Tight end: Coach Ron Rivera wants a tight end that can do it all, someone like an Antonio Gates. If he doesn't feel that guy is on the roster, they will look to get him in free agency or the NFL draft.



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