New Carolina Panther coach Ron Rivera just completed his news conference over at Bank of America Stadium. It was the first time I and many other folks ever heard him talk at any length, and he was impressive.
3 quick thoughts about Rivera in advance of my column to be published in tomorrow's newspaper (UPDATE -- here's a link to that column):
1) He's intense. When Rivera was speaking, it almost seemed like there was an electric current humming through the room. He didn't joke a lot. There was a laser-like focus to most everything he said and he was extremely well-prepared. I walked out of the room wondering why Rivera, 49, hadn't already gotten a head-coaching job somewhere.
2) He's going to make changes. Rivera's first order of business is to get his new coaching staff in place. But he has already studied the Panthers' roster at length and knows there are places -- particularly at quarterback, as he mentioned several times -- where Carolina must get better performance. Rivera didn't sound like someone who would stand pat, or who would tolerate half-hearted or ineffective performance at any position.
3) He's a former player, and don't you forget it. Rivera mentioned this repeatedly, and I understand that -- it's an integral part of who he is. It's part of why he and owner Jerry Richardson bonded so well, according to Richardson. For the first time, the Panthers have a head coach who has some of his own "NFL player war stories" to share, and that automatically gives you a bigger stick in a pro locker room. As a former teammate of Walter Payton and Mike Singletary and a player under Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan, Rivera obviously has his share.