Cam Newton-Ron Rivera relationship timeline, from Panthers draft day to simultaneous departures

Cam Newton-Ron Rivera relationship timeline, from Panthers draft day to simultaneous departures

For nine years, Cam Newton and Ron Rivera were the faces of the Panthers.

The pairing took Carolina to the playoffs four times, with three division crowns. Once, they went to the Super Bowl. They won more games than any coach-quarterback pairing than any that had previously played in Charlotte.

Then, it was time for a change of pace at Bank of America Stadium. Rivera was let go, and Newton was cut. On Sunday, the two will meet again in Charlotte, with Newton having just returned to the Panthers and Rivera coaching the Washington Football Team.

Here’s a look back at the history of the pairing in Carolina:

Cam Newton-Ron Rivera relationship timeline

Jan. 11, 2011: The Panthers hire Ron Rivera, the previous defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, to become the franchise’s fourth-ever head coach. He replaced John Fox, who led the team to its first Super Bowl in 2003 and left the franchise with 73 wins, the most in the young history of the team.

April 28, 2011: Rivera kicks off his tenure in Carolina with a splashy — and obvious — first overall selection. The Panthers pick up Cam Newton, who was coming off his second national championship and a season in which he swept the major awards, including the Heisman Trophy, in 2010. 

Sept. 11, 2011: Newton starts his first game in the NFL. He throws a pair of touchdowns and rushes for another, while completed 24-of-37 passes with an interception. He added 403 passing yards and rushed for 18 more. Though the team lost 28-21 to Arizona, Newton showed the exciting potential he possessed in the NFL.

Sept. 18, 2011: The pairing play their first game together in Bank of America Stadium, but it doesn’t go quite as well. Newton throws three picks, though he still scores two touchdowns — one rushing, one passing — in a 30-23 loss to the Packers.

Sept. 25, 2011: It doesn’t take much longer for the Panthers to win their first game with Rivera and Newton at the helm. Newton has a quieter game, completing just 18-of-34 passes for 158 yards with one passing touchdown. It is the first of many wins to come for the pairing, and it comes in front of the home crowd.

Dec. 4, 2011: Newton makes history. Facing the Buccaneers, he rushes for three touchdowns to reach 13 on the year, passing 49ers’ Billy Kilmer for the most rushing touchdowns in a first season by a quarterback (10, 1961). It also ties him with Russell Wilson on Dec. 16, 2012, for the second-most rushing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback in a single game. Kilmer rushed for four on Oct. 15, 1961 to hold the record.

Dec. 24, 2011: Another historic mark for Newton. With 171 passing yards, Newton passed Peyton Manning’s previous record of 3,739 passing yards by a rookie.

Jan. 1, 2012: Newton ends the season on a high note. While the team loses 45-17 to the Saints to end the season at 6-10, Newton throws 158 yards to eclipse 4,000 passing yards on the season. In doing so, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 500 more.

Feb. 4, 2012: Newton is named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Nov. 26, 2012: The 2012 season for the Panthers gets off to a dreadfully slow start as they went just 2-8 in the first 10 games, but on Nov. 26, they turn the season around, beating the Eagles 30-22. While Carolina lost next week, it won four straight games to end the year, ending the campaign having won five of its final six games.

Oct. 6, 2013: The Cardinals beat the Panthers 22-6, bringing the Panthers up to 1-3 on the year. The franchise begins to consider whether a coaching change might be necessary. Enter Riverboat Ron.

Oct. 13, 2013: Carolina routs the Vikings 35-10 behind a huge game from Newton, who completed 20-of-26 passes for 242 yards with three touchdowns, as well as a rushing touchdown. Twice, the Panthers went for a fourth-and-1 to keep the drive alive rather than settle for a field goal. The nickname “Riverboat Ron” is born for Rivera’s aggressive coaching on the drive, as the Panthers kick off a then-franchise record eight-game winning streak.

Dec. 22, 2013: Newton delivers the Panthers their most important win of the season. With 23 seconds left in the game, Newton connects with Domenik Dixon for a 14-yard touchdown to give Carolina the 17-13 lead over the Saints in a matchup that would place one of the two teams in sole possession of first place in the NFC South.

Dec. 29, 2013: The Panthers hold on late for a 21-20 win against the Falcons, securing the divisional title and sending Rivera and Newton to the playoffs for the first time.

Jan. 12, 2014: The first trip to the postseason for the pair ends in disappointment, as the 49ers hold the Panthers to just 10 points in a 23-10 win to advance to the NFC Championship.

Feb. 1, 2014: For the strong end to the season, Rivera is named the AP Coach of the Year.

Dec. 7, 2014: The Panthers got off to yet another slow start, opening the season 3-8-1 to begin the year, but the NFC South remains wide open late in the season. On Dec. 7, the Panthers blow out the Saints 41-10 to kick off a four-game winning streak to end the season and win the division for the second straight year. 

Jan. 3, 2015: Rivera and Newton claim their first-ever playoff win together. Newton passes for a pair of touchdowns and the defense contains the Cardinals to just two second-quarter touchdowns in a 27-16 win in the Wild Card round. A week later, the eventual NFC champion Seahawks beat the Panthers 31-17.

June 2, 2015: Newton is inked to a five-year, $103.8 million deal to solidify him in Charlotte for years to come.

Sept. 13, 2015: The Panthers open up the season with a 20-9 win against the Jaguars. It is the first win in what will become the best season in franchise history.

Nov. 2, 2015: A team had never trailed in overtime and come back to win. Until today. After falling behind 23-20, Newton led the Panthers on a game-tying and another game-winning drive, with each being capped off by field goals.

Nov. 8, 2015: In a clash with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, it is Newton that comes out on top as he passed for three touchdowns and rushed for another to lead the Panthers to a 37-29 win. The win moves the Panthers up to 8-0, tying the longest winning streak in franchise history and giving the team their best start to the season ever.

Dec. 20, 2015: Newton passes for five touchdowns in a 38-35 win against the Giants, the third time in the 2015 campaign he passed for five scores. It tied him with Daunte Culpepper (2004), Tom Brady (2007) and Drew Brees (2011) for the second-most games in a season with at least five passing touchdowns, behind only four from Peyton Manning in 2004. The game ended on a walk-off field goal to preserve the Panthers’ 14-game winning streak to begin the season. The next week, the Falcons won 20-13 to snap the streak, but the Panthers still finished the season 15-1 with a win in Week 17 for the best regular season in Panthers’ history.

Jan. 17, 2016: The Panthers enjoyed their first-round bye and came out firing with 31 unanswered points in the first half against the Seahawks to start the divisional round playoff game. However, the Seahawks staged a late comeback to draw the game to within a touchdown at 31-24, but they could not recover the onside kick, and the Panthers picked up the win.

Jan. 24, 2016: Once again, Carolina comes out firing, scoring 17 unanswered points on the Cardinals in the NFC Championship. This time, the Panthers don’t let up as Newton finishes the game with four total touchdowns — two passing, two rushing — to lead the team to a 49-15 win and a berth in the Super Bowl.

Feb. 6, 2016: Newton is named NFL MVP, the first Panther to receive the award, and Rivera earned his second Coach of the Year honors.

Feb. 7, 2016: Super Bowl 50 does not get off to a great start. The Broncos, led by Peyton Manning, score 10 points in the first quarter, and hed into the locker rooms at halftime leading 13-7. Denver adds three more points in the third quarter and a touchdown and two-point conversion in the fourth to take a 24-10 lead. The Broncos claim the ring by that final score, as Newton finishing the game having completed just 18-of-41 passes for 265 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.

Sept. 8, 2016: Though the Panthers lost the 2016 season-opener 21-20 to the Broncos, Newton threw the 121st touchdown of his career, passing Jake Delhomme for the most touchdown passes by a Panthers’ quarterback. Newton also passed Steve Young passed Steve Young for the most rushing touchdowns in NFL history with 44 and the most games with at least one passing and rushing touchdown at 32.

Oct. 30, 2016: Newton adds another Panther milestone to his illustrious resume. He passed Delhomme to become the winningest quarterback in Carolina history when the Panthers beat the Cardinals 30-20, giving him 54 wins in a Carolina jersey.

Dec. 24, 2016: Another franchise mark for Newton. This time, he gets to share it with Rivera. He played in his 92nd regular season game with the Panthers, the most by a quarterback in team history. And with Rivera at 95 regular season games coached, it made them the longest-lasting coach-quarterback duo in Panthers’ history.

Jan. 1, 2017: The Panthers falls to the Buccaneers 17-16 to finish the 2016 campaign at 6-10, missing the postseason for the first time since 2012.

March 30, 2017: Newton undergoes offseason shoulder surgery on a partially torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

Oct. 29, 2017: After losing two straight to fall to 4-3 on the year, the Panthers kick off a four-game winning streak to move up to 8-3. They fall to the Saints on Dec. 3, but win three more behind five touchdowns to two interceptions in those games by Newton.

Jan. 6, 2018: Rivera is rewarded for taking the Panthers to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years with a two-year, $15.5 million contract that is set to keep him locked in as the Carolina head coach through 2020.

Jan. 7, 2018: The Saints won the head-to-head against the Panthers after beating them twice during the regular season to claim the NFC South title, and they immediately have to face Carolina again in the Wild Card round. Despite 349 passing yards and two passing touchdowns from Newton, the Saints get by Carolina 31-26. It is the last time Rivera and Newton will take the Panthers to the playoffs.

May 15, 2018: David Tepper becomes the new owner of the Panthers. This follows years of ownership by Jerry Richardson, who put the team on sale in December 2017 following accusations of workplace harassment and racism.

Nov. 4, 2018: Carolina began the season strong, winning six of its first eight games, but the 2018 campaign falls away in November. The Panthers lose seven straight starting on Nov. 4 to slide out of playoff contention.

Dec. 17, 2018: Newton acknowledges that he has been slowed down by a lingering shoulder injury after the team lost to the Saints. It is his last game of the season as he is shut down for the remaining two matchups.

Jan. 24, 2019: Newton undergoes surgery on his right shoulder, the second time in two years that he has his throwing shoulder operated on.

Sept. 12, 2019: Through Newton plays in the first two games of the season, he still doesn’t appear to have returned to pre-surgery form as he completes just 56.18 percent of his passes for 572 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed just five times for minus-two yards. He is inactive the next week against the Cardinals

Sept. 27, 2019: Newton confirms that he has a Lisfranc fracture in his YouTube vlog. 

Oct. 6, 2019: Rivera and the Panthers beat the Jaguars 34-27. It is the 74th head coaching win at the helm of the Panthers for Rivera, who becomes the all-time winningest coach in franchise history.

Nov. 5, 2019: Carolina places Newton on injured reserve, ending his season.

Dec. 3, 2019: Tepper ousts Rivera following a fourth straight loss by the Panthers. Rivera leaves the Panthers with an overall record of 76-63-1.

March 17, 2020: The end for Newton nears as he is granted permission to start seeking out a trade to leave Carolina.

March 24, 2020: The final piece of the Newton-Rivera era of the Panthers is gone after Carolina releases their franchise quarterback. During his nine seasons with the Panthers, he completed 59.6 percent of his passes for 29,041 yards, 182 passing touchdowns, to go along with 4,806 rushing yards with 58 rushing touchdowns. To this day, he still holds franchise records in passing touchdowns, passing yards and rushing touchdowns.





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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.