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John Madden

Richardson rewarded for patience with Panthers' Ron Rivera

While Ron Rivera is a coach of the year candidate for the second time in three seasons after leading the Panthers to an NFL-best 15-1 record, his footing in Carolina wasn't always solid.

Rivera has survived — and succeeded — while other NFL head coaches who struggled with early losses met abrupt termination.

Six games into Rivera's second season in Carolina, team owner Jerry Richardson fired longtime general manager Marty Hurney after a 1-5 start and called Rivera into his office. He told him the Panthers need to be "trending upward," but assured Rivera he wouldn't make any decisions on his future until they met after the season.

The Panthers...