After an outstanding turnaround during the 2013 season, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was named the NFL Coach of the Year.
The league's official Twitter account announced the news:
After putting up losing records in each of his first two years, the pressure was on Rivera to succeed in his third season with the team. Unfortunately, his squad struggled out of the gate with a 1-3 start.
The low point was a 22-6 road loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 5 that seemed to be pointing to the end of his tenure with the club.
However, the Panthers turned things around at that point and won 11 of their last 12 games to win the NFC South and earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC. Bleacher Report's Aaron Nagler described the dramatic change of events:
Ron Rivera went from his owner down on the sideline pre-game possibly getting ready to fire him, to Coach of the Year. Amazing.— Aaron Nagler (@Aaron_Nagler) February 1, 2014
One of the keys was the defense, which was great against both the rush and the pass and ranked second in the NFL in points allowed.
Additionally, Rivera himself made a big change from early in the year from a conservative approach to being more of a gambler in big moments. The squad went 10-of-13 this season on fourth downs, including many big ones throughout the year.
This led to the nickname "Riverboat Ron," which stuck whether Rivera enjoyed it or not. According to Will Brinson of CBS Sports, the coach had this to say about the name after receiving the Coach of the Year Award:
“It’s a nice little moniker but I try to do things the right way.” - Ron Rivera on #RiverboatRon— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) February 2, 2014
Still, running back DeAngelo Williams showed that even the players liked it:
Congrats to uncle luke and riverboat ron on winning their well deserved def player and coach of the yr awards! pic.twitter.com/UjJd9EfKsm— DeAngelo Williams (@DeAngeloRB) February 2, 2014
Of course, this was not a landslide victory for Rivera as this was one of the tightest races of the year.
|1||Ron Rivera||Carolina Panthers||21.5|
|2||Andy Reid||Kansas City Chiefs||13.5|
|3||Bill Belichick||New England Patriots||7|
|4||Chip Kelly||Philadelphia Eagles||4|
|5||Pete Carroll||Seattle Seahawks||3|
|6||Bruce Arians||Arizona Cardinals||2|
Andy Reid finished in second place in the voting after leading the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs just one year after a 2-14 season. Bill Belichick was also a top candidate thanks to his ability to keep his team together through an injury-riddled season.
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft had big things to say about the work his coach did this year, via Mike Reiss of ESPN:
This is his 14th season with us but I really think this might be his most outstanding coaching job. The way these guys have stepped up, 'Next man up' so to speak, has just been unbelievable. ... I think we're lucky to have a coach that understands the game and pays attention to detail, and also adapts to whatever the situation [may be].
Despite this endorsement, Ron Rivera ran away with the voting and was a well-deserving recipient of the 2013 Coach of the Year award.
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