Heads are rolling in Carolina.
Rivera told reporters he relieved Murphy over "philosophical differences," but refused to delve into details. Rivera replaced Murphy with Richard Rodgers, the team's assistant special teams coach who played with Rivera at the University of California.
The Panthers were a messy operation on special teams last season and have seen only minor improvements in 2012.
One gaffe from Sunday's loss to the Denver Broncos likely played a role in Murphy's departure. Denver return man Trindon Holliday torched the Panthers for a 76-yard punt return, but flipped the ball out of his hands before crossing the end zone. Rivera was tweaked about the play and asked the league for explanation, but the controversial ending didn't wipe out the memory of Carolina's breakdown in coverage.
The Panthers rank 18th in the league covering punt returns. Carolina has done a better job covering kick returns, but Carolina's special teams have lost too many weekly matchups.
Their own return men rank 31st in the league with 5.6 yards per punt return. They drafted rookie Joe Adams to play that role and he's been on the bench since September. Their 22.5 yards per kick return rank 21st. Murphy did coach the team last season to its first kick return for a touchdown since 2003.
None of it has been good enough for Rivera. He's under fire and struggling for answers. He might ultimately be blamed for this floundering team.