CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Ron Rivera era has come to an abrupt end in Carolina.

The Panthers fired their all-time winningest head coach with the team on a four-game losing streak and headed to its third non-playoff season in four years.

“I believe this is the best decision for the long-term success of our team,” Panthers Owner David Tepper said in a statement Tuesday. “I have a great deal of respect for Ron and the contributions he has made to this franchise and to this community.”

Secondary coach Perry Fewell was been named interim head coach. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will transition to special assistant to the head coach, and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner will serve as offensive coordinator.

Rivera was hired in 2011 and was 76-63-1 in the regular season and a 3-4 postseason mark. In nine seasons Rivera guided the team to a Super Bowl appearance, an NFC championship and three NFC South titles.

But the Panthers have fallen on hard times lately following injuries to quarterback Cam Newton the past two seasons. The Panthers are 5-7 this season and are all but eliminated from playoff contention after a 29-21 loss to Washington on Sunday at home.

When asked if he was worried about his future with the team on Sunday after his team surrendered a 14-0 lead, Rivera replied, “I’m not worried about my future. I’m worried about this football team. We have a game coming up on Sunday” at Atlanta.

They started this season 5-3. Last year the team was 6-2 but lost seven straight games and finished 7-9. Since losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50 four seasons ago, the Panthers are 29-31 and have not won a playoff game.

Rivera, 57, did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment from The Associated Press.

COWBOYS: In a radio interview, Owner Jerry Jones more than doubled down on his support of Coach Jason Garrett.

“Nobody has the exclusive skills to get the job done so that collectively you can win a Super Bowl,” Jones said. “But there are qualified people. Jason Garrett is one of them. In my opinion, Jason Garrett will be coaching in the NFL next year.”

Jones also didn’t say if it would be with the Cowboys. Garrett is in the final year of his contract. The Cowboys have lost six of nine games and two straight.

Jones called out his coaching staff and seemingly put Garrett on notice after a disappointing loss to the New England Patriots on Nov. 24.

BROWNS: Cleveland released defensive end Chris Smith, whose girlfriend was killed in a roadside accident earlier this season.

Smith spent the past two seasons with Cleveland. Smith’s girlfriend, Petara Cordero, was struck and killed by a car on Sept. 11 while standing on the side of a highway after Smith’s car had swerved and crashed.

The 27-year-old Smith was not injured. He played against the New York Jets a few days later to honor Cordero, who had recently given birth to the couple’s first child.

Smith played in nine games this season. The Browns signed him as a free agent in 2018 after one season with Cincinnati. He played three years in Jacksonville.

STEELERS: Coach Mike Tomlin confirmed that quarterback Devlin Hodges will make his second straight start on Sunday when the Steelers (7-5) visit the Arizona Cardinals (3-8-1).

Tomlin named Hodges the starter over Mason Rudolph before last week’s meeting with Cleveland but stressed he was not committing to anything beyond the game against the Browns.

DOLPHINS: Running back Kalen Ballage’s historically unproductive season ended when he was placed on injured reserve after he hurt his left leg in Miami’s victory over Philadelphia.

The second-year pro finishes the season with 135 yards in 74 carries. His 1.8-yard average is the worst by a running back with at least 70 carries since Phil Sarboe had a 1.2-yard average for two teams in 1936. Ballage’s long gain was 8 yards. Some 199 players have had a longer run this season.

The Dolphins were awarded running back Zach Zenner off waivers from Arizona and receiver Trevor Davis off waivers from Oakland. They waived safety Montre Hartage.

TITANS: Tennessee claimed cornerback Tramaine Brock off waivers from Arizona and waived center Hroniss Grasu.

Adding Brock should boost the depth of a Titans secondary that has been hit hard by injuries.

RAMS: Los Angeles kick returner JoJo Natson has been placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

 

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