Rivera on a trek similar to Seattle's Carroll

February, 7, 2014
Feb 7
12:00
PM ET
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has some new competition for his patented "Superman" celebration, and it's not San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick.

It's his own head coach.

After winning the Associated Press Coach of the Year award in New York City on Saturday, Ron Rivera unbuttoned his suit jacket backstage and mimicked the move his Pro Bowl quarterback does after scoring touchdowns.

Or as his daughter wrote on Instagram, "yes this dork did the supercam pose backstage after he won!!''

Rivera laughed when asked about the move. But it speaks volumes about the man because, like Seattle coach Pete Carroll, who a day later won the trophy Rivera really wanted, he's not afraid to share his personality with his players and the public.

[+] EnlargeRon Rivera
Courtesy Rivera familyRon Rivera perfomed Cam Newton's Superman move after winning the NFL's coach of the year honors.
And vice versa, he's not afraid to let his players share their personality.

The "Superman" pose is defense exhibit A on the former.

"What happened there was a little chance to poke a little bit of fun and have a little bit of fun," Rivera told ESPN.com. "And it was nice. I do value the relationship I have with our players. There is a professionalism to that relationship, but at the same time I understand they're people and there's a certain way to handle them at certain times.

"I try to be open minded about it."

Personality isn't the only thing Rivera has in common with Carroll, who led the Seahawks to a 43-8 victory over Denver in the Super Bowl. They also have similar philosophies.

Consider: Both teams are built around a defense designed to pressure the quarterback with its front four, stop the run with its front seven and create turnovers. Both teams are built around an offense that relies heavily on the running game, a mobile quarterback and a collection of role-type player receivers. Both teams are built around solid special teams.

It's the same model San Francisco used to reach the NFC championship the past three seasons and the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. It's basically the same model Baltimore used to win the Super Bowl two years ago and the New York Giants did the year before that.

"That to me is kind of the model," Rivera said. "Being able to run the ball and control the clock and play good defense and get pressure with just four is going to be very important. It's going to be a premium in this league."

That's because the league has adopted so many rules to make it quarterback and passing friendly that it has to be the model to win on a consistent basis.

"It is a passing league," Rivera said. "Some of the rules do tend to favor the offensive side. If you have to blitz, now you are taking guys out of coverage and they can't protect."

Rivera believes now more than ever, after spending the weekend in the New York-New Jersey area and watching how Seattle won so handily, that he is doing the right things.

He should. Down to Seattle having 19 undrafted players on its roster compared to Carolina's 16, both teams have been smart about building their rosters.

If you want to look closer, Carroll was 25-23 in his first three regular seasons. He went 7-9 and 7-9 before turning things around with an 11-5 record in 2012.

Rivera also has gone 25-23 in his first three regular seasons. He went 6-10 and 7-9 before turning things around with a 12-4 record and NFC South title in 2013.

The difference is Carroll's first team won a weak NFC West with a losing record and made the playoffs.

Whether or not Rivera and Carolina can take the next step that Seattle took in Carroll's fourth season remains to be seen. The Panthers have 21 unrestricted free agents and are somewhat strapped under the salary cap.

Rivera's goal is to re-sign as many of those players as possible and maintain a chemistry that was as much a part of Carolina's success as it was Seattle's this year.

That's what Rivera took away from his trip to New York as a spectator and award winner.

"What it's done is kind of shown to me what it feels like," he said of the Super Bowl atmosphere. "I got an opportunity to get a sense for it. Do I want to get back? Most certainly. Believe me, that's what the ultimate goal is.

"The goal is not necessarily to win personal awards as much as it is to win the team award, and that's to win the Super Bowl. That's what the vision was when I came here. We took a step this year."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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