Panthers' Ron Rivera talks shop with Jimmie Johnson's crew chief

Ron Rivera spent some time this offseason with NASCAR crew chief Chad Knaus. (USATSI)
Ron Rivera spent some time this offseason with NASCAR crew chief Chad Knaus. (USATSI)

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The Carolina Panthers have played 19 seasons since joining the NFL as an expansion franchise in 1995 and not once in those 19 years have the Panthers had back-to-back winning seasons.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera wants to change that, so he spent some time this offseason with someone who knows a little bit about sustained success: Chad Knaus. 

Knaus is the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, a driver who's been NASCAR's Sprint Cup Champion six times since 2006. 

"One of the things we're trying to figure out is, how do we sustain the success?" Rivera said, via "Listening to him talk about the way they review each year and how they try to find these next-level things, that was pretty impressive."

Riverboat Ron led the Panthers to a 12-4 record in 2013, the team's first winning-record since 2008 and only fourth winning-record since 2000. 

One of the other things Rivera talked about with Knaus was team chemistry. The Panthers let several players walk in free agency, including the team's all-time leading receiver, Steve Smith.

Using a NASCAR analogy, Rivera talked about how the guy with the most talent doesn't always make the team better, which may or may not have been a slight swipe at Smith.  

"This guy may jack the car up a 10th of a second faster, but he doesn't work as well together with others, while this guy may be a 10th of a second slower, yet he works well with everybody. We're the same way," Rivera said. "It's about, 'How does this guy fit in the locker room?'"

After spending time with Rivera, Knaus seems to think the Panthers coach knows what he's doing. 

"The more I talk to people in the military, in other sports, people who are successful in other fields, the formula isn't that different for any environment," Knaus said. "It's all about teamwork, communication. It's how you approach the day. Ron has that."

That's good news for Panthers fans who will all be hoping that Rivera can lead the team to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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