Ron Rivera never got to hoist a Lombardi Trophy in Charlotte, but his nine-year run with the Carolina Panthers ended Tuesday with plenty of positive memories.
During his tenure, Rivera won two AP NFL Coach of the Year awards, made a Super Bowl appearance, won back-to-back-to-back NFC South titles, and became the winningest coach in team history. The Panthers made four playoff appearances under Rivera. The franchise made the playoffs four times in 16 seasons before he took over in 2011.
Wednesday morning, Rivera met with the Carolina media -- an unusual move for a coach just fired, which speaks to his standing within the organization even though owner David Tepper decided it was time to choose his own coach. In what started out slightly spicy, with the fired coach defending the ups-and-downs of nine seasons, Rivera said he was proud of the turnaround under his watch.
The 57-year-old also made it clear he's looking to get right back into coaching if he gets a shot.
"I do believe I will get another opportunity, and I will coach again," he said, laughing that he's taking the next four weeks off before getting back to work.
The 30-plus-minute press conference could be used as a pre-interview appetizer for any owner considering hiring Rivera for an opening. We know the Washington Redskins need a new head coach. If history is any indicator, several others will also be in the market.
Rivera was asked what pitch he'd make to owners considering him for a coaching job.
"There are a lot of things I would do differently, there really are, but I think I've got the right kind of experience," he said. "I mean, I do. I just think that, having gone through the things that I've gone through, been through the things that we've been through, been where we've been, it gives me experience. Doesn't mean I'll be better than anybody else but what it does is it gives me a different perspective ...I'll be honest I'm kind of excited, I really am. I'm really looking forward to a lot of opportunities, I'm looking forward to a little bit of time."
Rivera noted that his desire to leap right back into another gig if given a chance is to continue to influence the lives of young men.
"I love coaching and not just coaching because it's about winning football games but coaching because you have an opportunity to impact young men and people and that's what I want to do," Rivera said. "I want to be able to coach people, impact people, win football games and hopefully win a Super Bowl...
"It's young men like Greg Olsen and Eric Reid, who are going to change this world and make it a better place," Rivera said.
After the outpouring from players following his firing, it's clear that Rivera earned respect through his nine years as a head coach in Carolina.
The praise continued Wednesday in the locker room as team leaders like Olsen discussed the solemn nature of their first day without Rivera as coach.
"This is as a bad a day as I've been a part of in the NFL," Olsen told reporters."To lose a coach and have a coaching change at the top, I've never gone through it before. I've been very fortunate in 13 seasons, only played for two head coaches and Ron was nine years of that.
"To have him come say his goodbyes and say our goodbyes after nine years of a lot of great moments that we've shared together football and non-football related -- it's terrible. Ron means a lot to a lot of guys in here for a lot of things outside of the football. The biggest thing you hear from guys today, current players, former players, guys who played for him in different organizations. I think the biggest consistent narrative is how much he meant to guys."
If an owner is looking for an esteemed person to take over and perform a culture change, Rivera's Wednesday presser could give a window into a potential future, with the ex-coach coming off well, and somehow pulling off an oddity: Winning a post-firing presser.
At the end of Wednesday's media meeting, Rivera held up two shirts, the second said "Thank You" for a great nine years. The first defined the greatest lament for his time in Carolina: "Missed opportunities."
For the next owner thinking of giving Rivera another shot to coach in the NFL, weighing his leadership and character against his role in those missed opportunities will be the pivotal calculus in whether he's coaching again in 2020.