Tuesday afternoon, the Carolina Panthers and owner David Tepper started the offseason early by firing head coach Ron Rivera amid a 5-7 season. Quarterback Cam Newton, who Rivera selected first overall in 2011, has since responded to the news. As he wrote on Instagram, "this one hurts deep."
Newton sent a message to his now-former head coach using his Instagram stories on Tuesday, posting a photo of Rivera standing at attention during the National Anthem. As he explained in the text, Newton is grateful for the impact that Rivera had on his life, as well as the decisions that he made to let the star quarterback be unique.
"Will be forever grateful because of the impact you had on my life," Newton wrote. "Thank you for giving me an opportunity. Thank you for believing in me. I can go on & on but most importantly; thank you for allowing me to be me!"
Throughout their tenure together, there were many opportunities for Rivera to try and change Newton. The former Auburn star is known for his big personality, his wild outfits, and for a style of play that combines both running and passing. The clothes drew considerable attention, mostly negative, as users on social media compared Newton to elderly grandmothers based upon his hats and scarves.
However, Rivera didn't care about the way Newton dressed or how he celebrated after each touchdown. Instead, he just tried to build the team in a way that would help the quarterback perform at his best. The Panthers had a powerful rushing attack led by figures such as Jonathan Stewart and Christian McCaffrey, which helped Newton attack the opposing defense in different ways.
Additionally, Rivera also built up a defense that could keep games close and provide Newton with multiple opportunities to achieve victory. This strategy resulted in three division titles and an appearance in Super Bowl 50.
Considering that Newton was Rivera's first draft pick of his coaching tenure, it was expected that they would be tied together at the hip. They joined the Panthers the same year, and they could both leave within months of each other. Although that does depend on how Tepper and the new head coach approach Newton's contract situation. He has one final season remaining on his deal.
For now, Newton will plan for a future that doesn't involve Rivera, but he will never forget the impact that the coach had on his life and his career. He will continue to be grateful for the nine seasons that they spent together.
(Photo Credit: 2018 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty)