The Carolina Panthers have signed head coach Ron Rivera to a three-year contract extension, the team announced Tuesday. This extension will keep him with the team through the 2017 season. Rivera led the Panthers to 12 wins and a playoff appearance this season.
The extension is expected to be worth between $4 million and $5 million per season, according to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer. That is a significant raise over his original deal with the Panthers which averaged $2.8 million per season.
Rivera started this season as a potential candidate to find himself on the hot seat if the Panthers did not progress. That's generally due to the fact that he's a defensive-minded coach in charge of a team that wasn't playing well on defense by any stretch of the imagination. That all changed this past season.
Carolina fielded the No. 6 passing defense in the league, allowing 214.3 passing yards per game, and the second-best rush defense, allowing just 86.9 rushing yards per game on average. The defense allowed the second-fewest yards in the regular season, and the second-fewest points scored.
That was good enough to get the Panthers 12 wins, the NFC South title (narrowly edging out the New Orleans Saints) and the No. 2 seed in the NFC. However, they fell to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Still, Rivera's team showed marked improvement, after his first year saw the Panthers go 6-10 and his second year showed a narrow improvement at 7-9.
From here on out, with that defense and some potential new pieces on offense, the expectation will be playoffs for Rivera. The NFC South is a tough division to play in, so long as Drew Brees and the Saints are around. His chief task going forward will be improving the NFL's 29th-ranked pass offense led by Cam Newton.