Ron Rivera had tremendous success over his nine seasons as the Panthers head coach, leading Carolina to four NFC South titles and a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance in 2015.
Yet, in December 2019, just two days after Carolina lost to, ironically, a previously two-win Washington team, Rivera was let go as the Panthers head coach. Less than one month later, he was introduced as the coach of the Washington Football Team.
On Sunday, Rivera will return to Bank of America Stadium for the first time since he was fired when Washington faces the 4-5 Panthers. While the head coach would surely love to leave Charlotte with a victory over his old ballclub, Rivera insisted he has no bitterness towards the organization whatsoever.
"There's no reason to be bitter," Rivera said Wednesday.
Losing a job is never easy, especially as an NFL head coach. Yet, when Rivera was let go by the Panthers less than two years ago, he truly appreciated the respect and class Carolina's organization showed him on his way out.
"I went and did the best I could, and when it was time to move on, [Panthers owner] David Tepper treated me with tremendous dignity and respect," Rivera said. "He really did. He gave me an opportunity to say goodbye, and I really appreciated that."
Although Rivera was ultimately unable to deliver the city of Charlotte a Super Bowl title, the head coach left the organization in a lot better of a place than when he inherited it. Rivera departed Carolina as the franchise's all-time leader in wins and is just one of two coaches in Panthers history to lead the team to a Super Bowl appearance.
"For a coach to be in one place for a long time, for that many years, for nine seasons, that basically speaks to having roots," Rivera said. "Coaches are typically on the move three, four, five, six years down the line, so to be in one spot for a while, that was pretty cool. It meant a lot."
When Rivera was fired, Carolina was headed towards its second straight losing season. The roster was aging and had major question marks at the sport's most important position, as the organization had a decision to make regarding the future of Cam Newton, Rivera's first-ever draft pick.
Moving on from Rivera, and later Newton, were among the first steps in the franchise admitting that a rebuild was necessary. With that being the case, Carolina's ownership simply wanted to move in a different direction.
"I've got a tremendous amount of respect for what [Tepper is] doing there right now, what they're trying to do in terms of their rebuild, as well," Rivera said. "But there is no bitterness."
Although Rivera has no ill will towards his former organization, the head coach did admit it will feel a little different standing on the opposing sideline at Bank of America Stadium, a building he called home for nearly a decade.
Rivera said he plans to have his wife, Stephanie, do all the visiting of old friends. For Rivera, he's trying to keep the task at hand for Sunday's game -- getting a win against a solid football team -- as what's most important.
"To be back in Charlotte, that'll be probably the bigger thing more than anything else for me. The thing that I really appreciated about my time, more so there than anything else, were the people, and that's probably the bigger thing," Rivera said. "What I'm doing is I'm limiting my exposure to that. Stephanie will do all the visiting and saying hello to folks. Me, I'm pretty much going to try and stick to the mantra of this is a business trip."