Ron Rivera was surprisingly ousted by the Carolina Panthers with five games remaining in the 2019 regular season. Shortly after news of Rivera's firing broke, Cam Newton, the Panthers' starting quarterback for each of Rivera's nine seasons with the organization, reacted to the news via his Instagram account.
"Will be forever grateful because of the impact you had on my life … Thank you for giving me an opportunity. Thank you for believing in me. I can go on and on but most importantly; thank you for allowing me to be me."
Newton, whose message about Rivera included a photo of his former coach, added that Tuesday's news "hurt deep", as Newton will play for a new coach for the first time in his career in 2020. The duo made history in Carolina, leading the Panthers to four playoff appearances and that included the franchise's second Super Bowl appearance. Newton and Rivera also led Carolina to its best regular season in franchise history -- in 2015 they became one of seven teams in NFL history to win at least 15 games in a regular season.
Rivera, the Panthers' coach since the 2011 season, was fired two days after the Panthers, 5-7 through 12 games, lost for the fourth consecutive time. Carolina is in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for a second straight year and for the third time since winning the NFC championship in 2015.
Speaking of Newton, his future in Carolina has also been called into question following Rivera's firing. Shortly after news broke of Rivera's firing, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler is reporting that the Panthers' next head coach will "loom large" in the future of Carolina's quarterback position. While Newton, the 2015 NFL MVP, is still just 30-years-old, he has endured a career's worth of hits since leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl at the end of the '15 season. Newton, in his 46 regular season starts since Super Bowl 50, has been sacked 106 times. He also received numerous hits during his 335 rushing attempts during that span.
Carolina has already paid out the majority of Newton's bonus money so his contract shouldn't have any hurdles in it should they attempt to trade him. If Carolina made the decision to release Newton, they would incur just $2 million in "dead" salary cap charges.
Regardless of what happens moving forward, it's clear that Newton is appreciative of Rivera and what they were able to achieve together during their time with the Panthers. If Rivera gets a new head coaching gig elsewhere, and that team needs a quarterback, we wouldn't rule out a potential reunion in 2020.