Ron Rivera signs 3-year extension

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers on Tuesday signed coach Ron Rivera to a three-year contract extension through the 2017 season.

The deal came less than four months after it appeared Rivera might not last through the 2013 season following a 1-3 start. Rivera, 52, secured the extension after the Panthers rallied to win eight straight and 11 of their final 12 regular-season games, winning the NFC South and earning a first-round bye with a 12-4 record.

He went from the coaching hot seat to a finalist for the NFL Coach of the Year Award, which will be announced Saturday in New York City.

"The improvement of our team has been reflected in the progress of the record over the last three seasons under Ron and we look forward to building upon that foundation," Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said in a prepared statement.

Rivera took over a team that was 2-14 under John Fox, now the coach of the AFC champion Denver Broncos, in 2010. The Panthers went 6-10 and 7-9 in Rivera's first two seasons.

They began this season 0-2, which fueled speculation Rivera might not survive the bye week. They finished 12-5 after a 23-10 loss to San Francisco in the NFC divisional round.

"The team has shown improvement under Ron each year and he is deserving of the recognition that he has received for the 2013 season," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "We are pleased and excited with the continuity this extension brings."

Rivera was heading into the final year of a four-year deal worth $11.2 million. Monetary details of his extension were not immediately available.

"I have been very clear about how much I have enjoyed living in Charlotte and working for this organization," Rivera said. "I very much appreciate the support and confidence Mr. Richardson and Dave Gettleman have shown in me and our staff.

"Any success we have enjoyed is the result of a team effort by players, coaches, scouts and the entire organization, and our ultimate goal remains winning the Super Bowl."