CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers, facing uncertainty with the team set to be sold by founder Jerry Richardson after the season, on Saturday signed coach Ron Rivera to a two-year contract extension that will run through the 2020 season.
The extension came on the eve of Carolina's NFC wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Rivera's 56th birthday.
According to the Charlotte Observer, Rivera will receive $15.5 million over the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The 2018 season is the last of a three-year, $19.5 million extension Rivera signed two years ago.
"I'm very excited about it because I really like where we are as a football team," Rivera said in a statement. "We've done some really good things and we have an opportunity to do more. Things are in place and we can continue this success. We've had consistency of winning and we've gone to the playoffs four out of five years.
"This is a tremendous place with tremendous support from ownership and the people that work in the organization. And I really appreciate the support we've gotten from our fans in the Carolinas. That's a big reason why I want to continue my association with this organization."
This was the first major move by the organization since Tina Becker was named chief operating officer, taking Richardson out of day-to-day decision making for the team.
Richardson is under investigation for workplace misconduct that, according to Sports Illustrated, includes sexual harassment and the use of a racial slur to a former team scout.
He announced hours after the SI report was released in December that he would put the team up for sale after the season. Becker was named the COO the following day.
Rivera's deal offers some certainty for the organization moving forward.
"The circumstances are what they are," Rivera said Friday of changes coming after the season. "The only thing we can control is what happens on the football field. That's a big reason we've never really gotten into it. We as a team understand, so we focus in on the game we're about to play.
"I don't think it plays into how we feel or how we're going to play. Quite honestly, the only time it's really thought about is when it's brought up. I really do mean that."
Rivera has a 64-47-1 record, giving him a franchise-best .576 winning percentage. He has taken the Panthers to the playoffs in four of the past five seasons, including the Super Bowl after the 2015 season in which Carolina had an NFL-best 15-1 regular-season record.
He has been named the NFL Coach of the Year twice (2013, 2015) since replacing John Fox in 2011.
The Panthers are 11-5 this season as they prepare for division rival New Orleans, which won the NFC South on a tiebreaker based on two regular-season wins over Carolina.
This season has been one of Rivera's biggest challenges. Richardson fired general manager Dave Gettleman a week prior to training camp and hired former general manager Marty Hurney on an interim basis.
The Panthers played much of the season without two key Pro Bowl players, tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil. They traded No. 1 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills in early November.
Then came the allegations against Richardson. Rivera remained loyal to the owner by breaking the team down with "Mr. Richardson" after it clinched a playoff berth with a win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16.
Rivera defended his decision to break the team down with Richardson's name. He has reminded that Richardson stood by him in 2013 during a 1-3 start after consecutive losing seasons.
"What I've always said is I know nothing about that and I can only speak about what he has meant to me and the players," Rivera said at the time. "That's why I did it."
Plans to extend Rivera's contract began before the allegations against Richardson were made public.