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Ron Rivera ready to “evolve” as Panthers make changes

New England Patriots v Carolina Panthers

CHARLOTTE, NC - AUGUST 24: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers looks on against the New England Patriots in the second quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on August 24, 2018 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

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Panthers coach Ron Rivera has already made changes to his coaching staff, and he’s expected to make even more as they rebuild their roster for the 2019 season.

But Rivera told Jourdan Rodrigue of the Charlotte Observer that he knew the changes had to start with him for any of it to have a chance to work.

I have to evolve, I have to change,” Rivera said. “This team has to evolve, this team has to change. . . . I’ve got to step up. I’ve got to set the standard. . . .

“Either we evolve, or we go extinct.”

Rivera began the process of fixing his coaching staff when he fired two position coaches in Week 13 (during their seven-game losing streak), and took over play-calling from first-year coordinator Eric Washington.

He’s still going to call plays next season, but believes Washington is a valuable resource and wants to keep him. He also added veteran secondary coach Perry Fewell, who he thinks will be a valuable addition to the staff in addition to being an upgrade at position coach. They’re also going to lean toward versatility as they progress, as he’s openly said they want to incorporate more 3-4 looks (and the fact they’re running thin on 4-3 defensive ends who can rush the passer helped spark that decision).

Rivera’s biggest focus, however, has been internal. He said he’s been introspective this offseason about what went wrong with their 2018 season. Things looked fine at 6-2 before a blowout at Pittsburgh, though that was around the time quarterback Cam Newton’s arm started falling off. They followed with losses to the Lions and Seahawks by a combined four points.

“The biggest mistake, the biggest realization, I wish had come [earlier],” Rivera said. “But we were playing well. We were winning. It’s not like we were getting blown out, other than in Pittsburgh.

“I missed it. That’s why I missed it. If, after Pittsburgh, Detroit had been a 17-point blowout, now all of the sudden the bells and whistles are going off.”

At least he heard them eventually, giving himself a chance to survive the season and try to fix things.