Ron Rivera: Talks with Panthers owner 'all positive'

The Carolina Panthers' season will end Sunday. Ron Rivera says he hasn't been led to believe his coaching tenure will too.

It was only seven weeks ago that Rivera was being discussed as a possible coach of the year. But seven consecutive losses has many wondering if he is on the hot seat.

In advance of Sunday's regular-season finale against the New Orleans Saints, Rivera intimated he has the support of Carolina's first-year owner David Tepper and is already preparing for 2019.

"I feel pretty good. My intention, everything I've been doing is working towards the future and we'll go from there," Rivera said Friday, via the team's website. "My conversations with the owner have been all positive. That's why I am just going forward."

At 6-2, the Panthers appeared poised to play through December. They boasted the third-best record in the NFC heading into Week 10, having lost just one more game than the Saints and Los Angeles Rams.

Carolina was then blasted by the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday Night Football, which also might have been the origin of Cam Newton's lingering shoulder injury. The Panthers proceeded to lose their next five games by one possession, their slim playoff hopes officially dying last weekend in a loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported prior to kickoff that Rivera, who's compiled a 70-56-1 record in eight seasons with the Panthers but is in the midst of a career-long losing streak, is expected to be retained.

Carolina (6-9) will miss the playoffs for only the second time since 2013. But it's also the second instance in three years.

"I truly am disappointed. The hard part about it too, losing is truly disappointing, but sometimes you feel like you let some people down," said Rivera, who assumed defensive play-calling duties earlier this month and parted ways with two assistants. "That's probably one of the things I've struggled with.

"I think we're better than our record says, but at the end of the day you are what your record says you are. That's been the hard pill for me to swallow."

If Rivera does indeed return, 2019 figures to be a make-or-break year for him in Carolina. The Panthers have not won in the playoffs since blowing out the Arizona Cardinals in the 2015 NFC Championship Game.

Moreover, another season like this past one could make that Super Bowl run feel like a long time ago.