Style can’t be Rivera’s priority this week. He needs his Panthers to put their Week 17 loss to the Falcons behind them and do something on Sunday that they haven’t been able to pull off this season: beat the Saints.
"The big thing that we need to do more than anything else is to move forward and get past the game we just played," Rivera said via The Associated Press. "Right now that game isn't going to do anything for us."
It’s so important, in fact, that we’re surprised he hasn’t put it on a T-shirt.
Rivera has the strongest shirt game in the NFL right now, and it isn’t close. Here’s a rundown of his very best.
Rivera’s shirts give props to his players
Rivera’s shirts serve two purposes: They look dope, and they’re a clever way to support his players.
The Panthers’ receivers depth chart today looks totally different than it did at the beginning of the season. Carolina blew everyone’s minds when it shipped former first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin off to the Bills. Damiere Byrd and Curtis Samuel both landed on injured reserve.
That left Cam Newton with Devin Funchess and a whole bunch of guys you’ve never heard of in your life as targets.
NFL Network’s Good Morning Football had some fun with the receiving corps behind Funchess, making Russell Shepard, Kaelin Clay, Brenton Bersin, and Mose Frazier sound like some guys you might want to call for legal advice.
Rivera apparently got a kick out of it.
Rivera also used his time at the podium to rock a T-shirt repping tight end Greg Olsen’s foundation, The HEARTest Yard, which supports families of children who have been diagnosed with congenital heart conditions.
Ron Rivera wearing T-shirt in support of Greg Olsen's Heartest Yard charity. pic.twitter.com/FiiXIibIJA— Joe Person (@josephperson) January 28, 2016
Olsen and his wife started the foundation in honor of their son, T.J., who was born with a serious congenital heart condition. Olsen is the Panthers’ 2017 Walter Payton Man of the Year, and he’s in the running for the league award. Rivera, and even the staff at Bank of America Stadium, are campaigning for Olsen with shirts, too.
His first shirt of the 2018 season was a tribute to the Panthers’ special teams, with a parody of Migos’ Culture II album cover:
Check out Coach Rivera’s t-shirt today pic.twitter.com/qe04MevVGR— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) September 12, 2018
Rivera provided an explanation:
The specialists made Rivera a shirt that features them as Migos, except it says "Figos."— Jourdan Rodrigue (@JourdanRodrigue) September 12, 2018
"Yeah, like "Field Goals," Ron explains. Loud groans. And laughs.
Riverboat Ron is all in for animal rescue
Rivera got his “Riverboat Ron” nickname for his gambles on the football field back in 2013, when he made a dramatic shift from being one of the most conservative coaches in the league to consistently going for it on fourth down instead of punting.
He’s embraced that persona, and he used it to raise money to help land adoptable pets forever homes through the Humane Society of Charlotte’s “Safe Bet, Adopt a Pet” initiative in 2016.
The Riveras have two dogs. Fiyero, on your right, is a purebred golden retriever. Penny, the goofball on the left, is a rescue dog, and she looks like she loves her dad’s shirt, too.
This shirt — and the visual representation of Riverboat Ron — comes courtesy of Joey Ellis, a Charlotte-based graphic designer. Ellis worked closely with the Rivera family, particularly Stephanie, to design Rivera’s alter ego.
Ellis said the shirts are a glimpse into Rivera’s sense of humor.
“I think a lot of other coaches may not have that, but ... there’s a shot of him on Twitter, I think they were on vacation, where a riverboat is behind him and he took a selfie with that,” Ellis told SB Nation. “I can’t imagine Bill Belichick or somebody like that doing a photo like that.”
These shirts were only available through Oct. 2016. Yeah, we’re sad we missed out on these, too. Donna Stucker of the Humane Society of Charlotte confirmed to SB Nation that the effort raised just under $25,000 for their adoptable dogs and cats. The Riveras have also partnered with the organization on a cookbook and two calendars, including one that’s available now.
Game recognizes game
Rivera may be the most fashion-forward Panther these days. And he’s been known to don a dapper hat himself from time to time.
But Newton is the original trendsetter in Carolina. Rivera’s still got respect for Newton’s hat game.
Rivera’s reason behind this shirt was simple.
"Oh, no, it's just a cool T-shirt. It is," Rivera said, via ESPN’s David Newton.
That can be said of all of Rivera’s shirt choices. Unfortunately, none of them are currently available for sale to the public. Until that happens, Rivera’s going to remain the king of the T-shirt.