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Ron Rivera's unique assurance from Panthers' owner made this season possible

"All I can say is that I'm very fortunate to have an owner with a lot of patience, and a general manager that works with me very well," said Ron Rivera in the wake of the Dolphins firing Joe Philbin. Rob Carr/Getty Images

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Speculation that Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera might be fired after a 1-3 start in 2013 -- as Miami coach Joe Philbin was on Monday with the same record -- were misplaced.

Rivera revealed on Monday that one thing team owner Jerry Richardson "has always done and told me is that he would make no decision until after [the season]."

"I've always had that and I've never used that," Rivera when addressing Philbin's firing. "He told me if I ever had to, I could tell that to you guys, and I never did.

"I appreciated that because it gave me comfort and solace going forward that I could do my job, work as hard as I could, do the best I can and at the end of the day, he'll evaluate me."

By having that assurance, Rivera added, let the assistant coaches and players work without fear of a major shakeup.

"Just knowing that he was there and he supported me and met with me ... it was great," Rivera said.

That doesn't mean Richardson didn't let Rivera know where he stood after he began 1-3 after going 6-10 and 7-9 in his first two seasons.

"He was forward with me," Rivera said. "He was tough. He was everything that you needed to be as a young coach to have.

"That 2012 season, as tumultuous as it was, it was fair. That's probably the best way to put it. Coming out of that end of the season meeting with Mr. Richardson was that it was fair. That's all you can ask as a coach."

The Panthers rallied from their slow start in 2013 to finish 12-4 and win the NFC South. They became the first team in franchise history to repeat as division champions in 2014 despite a 7-8-1 record. They also won a playoff game under Rivera last season.

They are off to a 4-0 start this season. Rivera initially said yes when asked if this was his best team, but then adjusted.

"This can be our best team," he said. "I don't know if it is yet. That's probably a better answer, but it can be.”

And Rivera might not be in this position if it weren't for Richardson's patience in 2013.

"All I can say is that I'm very fortunate to have an owner with a lot of patience, and a general manager that works with me very well," said Rivera, referring to general manager Dave Gettleman. "We've put players in position and had been hoping to get to that point, and we were fortunate enough to get to that point."