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Panthers fire Ron Rivera ahead of Falcons Week 14 matchup

Atlanta doesn’t get an opportunity to play Rivera one final time.

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

The Atlanta Falcons are gearing up to play the Carolina Panthers this week, but when they do host their mediocre rival for a mediocre football game this Sunday, Ron Rivera won’t be on the sideline.

The Panthers have fired their coach for the past nine seasons, bringing an end to the second-longest head coaching tenure in the division, behind the Saints and Sean Payton.

It was an overdue move. Rivera was 76-63 in nearly nine full years at the helm, and after an 11-5 2017 season, his team had gone 12-16 with major second half swoons in each of the last two years. The defense that was once his calling card has faded over time, and the decision to roll with Kyle Allen as the quarterback this year has gone from seemingly wise to an epic disaster in record time. Rivera had been a steady coach for a long time, but Carolina had only three winning seasons under him, were heading for their second straight poor year in a row, and he was just 3-4 in the playoffs regardless. The time was ripe for a change, especially because Cam Newton may not be the long-term quarterback in Atlanta.

Against the Falcons, Rivera was 8-9 in his career, the kind of middle of the road mark that serves as a neat summation of his coaching career in Carolina. They had remarkable highs (stomping the Falcons in 2014 comes to mind, and I guess the Super Bowl in 2015) and plenty of lows, but on average Carolina was pretty average. Rivera wasn’t the kind of great coach who could lift them out of that, especially given some of the persistent holes on the roster, but he also can’t escape blame for the way things have gone in recent years.

I’m already fielding a few questions on Twitter about Rivera as a potential coaching hire for the Falcons. This article is awfully dour about Rivera simply because the Panthers have been such a mess the last couple of years, but he’s a good coach despite the roller coaster nature of his success in Carolina, one who was respected by his players and staff and was willing to take chances many of his peers do not. In the end, though, Rivera’s time with the Panthers came to an end because he was unwilling of incapable of adapting to things going wrong, a problem familiar to anyone who has watched Dan Quinn founder in much the same fashion in recent years. I don’t know that Rivera has enough upside as a coach to take over a Falcons team that needs to aim much, much higher, but he’ll be a hot name and likely a very good hire for a team like Washington, San Diego, or maybe even Miami.

The Falcons will face Perry Fewell as the interim head coach on Sunday, which means there’s a good chance they’re not going to get much of a bounce off the coaching change. The Falcons, meanwhile, will be looking quietly at Dan Quinn’s roughly .500 record as a head coach and mulling when their own change will come.