BEREA, Ohio -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera will not apologize for being in the playoff hunt with the team's 5-8-1 record.
Rivera went on a two-minute, 48-second soliloquy on a conference call with Cleveland media Wednesday, as the Panthers prepare to face the Browns on Sunday at Bank of America Stadium.
"Sure our record is down. But do our records truly represent how potentially good we could be? What if one of us comes out of this and all of a sudden we're the hot team? Now all of a sudden you get hot and who knows what happens."Ron Rivera
The question was simple: What is your feeling about the talk that the playoff structure should be changed to make it by conference instead of divisions?
Rivera's answer was expansive.
"Then why have divisions?" he said. "The divisions represent an area. If you do that, you take away the potential for anybody in the past that didn't have a good record that did advance in the playoffs. I was involved in a division, 8-8, and we hosted a game and everybody said, 'They were going to get blown out. They were going to get killed.'
"We turned around and beat the team."
He was referring to the 2008 season, when he was an assistant coach in San Diego and the Chargers reached the playoffs at 8-8 and beat the Colts in overtime in a wild-card game.
"Sometimes when you're in a division, you play against each other, you beat each other up," Rivera said. "What about the team that plays in the division and they're 14-and-whatever and everybody else in the division is below .500. How fair is that? So you're sitting there saying if you just happen to be the best team in a division that's terrible, then you're pretty much guaranteed six wins a year. How fair is that?
"Divisions were set up for that specific reason, that each division has a winner.
"That's how I feel about it. I've played in the league. I was fortunate enough to be in there. I'm going on my 28th year in the league, and the way we've done things seem to be working pretty good for the league to keep growing and keep going the way it is."
"Now we say we're going to say we're going to fix it and change it," he said. "It's going to change things.
"In our division there's still excitement. People are going to show up and watch these last couple games. Why? Because that's what the league is trying to do. The league wants there to be interest all the way through. That's what this has created.
"Sure our record is down. But do our records truly represent how potentially good we could be? What if one of us comes out of this and all of a sudden we're the hot team? Now all of a sudden you get hot and who knows what happens."
Rivera could have mentioned the 2010 Seattle Seahawks winning the NFC West with a 7-9 record and winning a wild-card game.
"I still don't know why people want to say, 'Well, they're getting penalized because they're in a good division,'" Rivera said. "Well, they're getting helped out because they're in a bad division.
"But that's the way it is. It changes. Every year it changes. If you go back and look at last year, tell me what was last year's best division."
He pointed out that Green Bay made the playoffs last season at 8-7-1.
"So we look at this and we say we need to change, we need to do something different," he said. "Well, it's been working pretty good for a long time.
"Apparently somebody doesn't think it's fair. Well, that's part of it, though. That's the way it's set up. We didn't make the rules. So now somebody wants to start changing things because people don't think it's good enough.
"Until that happens, this is the way it is. And I'm not going to apologize for it. I'm really not."