Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Friday that he plans to "keep fighting" amid speculation his job may be in trouble if the Panthers don't recover from a 1-5 start.
"The big thing, and the thing that a lot of people don't understand, is this is the nature of the game," Rivera said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000. "This is a production-based business; if you don't produce, things happen."
Something already happened when Marty Hurney was fired as general manager on Monday.
"We're in one of those situations right now where we've had opportunities, we just haven't capitalized on those opportunities," Rivera said. "So we have to find the answers to it. If we continue to give ourselves a chance, eventually you're going to win them, but you can't wait forever. Something has to happen now."
The Panthers will face a team Rivera played for and coached on Sunday when they take on the 5-1 Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
Rivera won't use the firing of Hurney, speculation about his job security or recent comments made by quarterback Cam Newton about the need for change as excuses to lose focus before Sunday's game.
"I think the first couple of days (after the firing) it was out there, but now the focus has been, and the guys have done a nice job, on the Bears," Rivera said. "We have a football game to play. We have to approach this game with the opportunity to win and with the mindset we're coming to Chicago to win and compete. We can't use that as an excuse. The bottom line is we have to focus on our next opponent."
Newton asking the media to put ideas on how to fix the Panthers in a suggestion box didn't bother Rivera.
"This is production-based. If you're not producing, something has to change," Rivera said. "Change is imminent. So we are looking at the different things that can help us, the different things we need to change obviously to help ourselves.
"It's funny, because so much has been said about (Newton). Just because he's put in front and doesn't handle it well doesn't mean there's something wrong with him, per se. There are some things that need to be corrected and changed obviously and he has to learn to deal with things a little bit better. The biggest thing we all need to do is continue to improve."
Rivera, who said Newton is focused on football, was asked if expectations were set too high for the Panthers and Newton, who earned the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award last season as he led Carolina to a 6-10 record.
"Going into this year, one of the things I've always talked about was managing our expectations," Rivera said. "I think that you start talking about what you can become without getting there first. That's one of the things I was concerned with going into the season.
"I expected it to be a grind and we'd have to work and make things happen, but no way did I expect to be 1-5. We had opportunities to win our last three games, it came down to the last few minutes of the game where we were put in a position to win, but unfortunately we didn't do those things. So now the reflection is on myself and on our quarterback, because so many expectations have been put on this team and put on him individually. I think at some point we have to learn to manage it because so many things change and you have to adapt to what's going on in the league right now."
Rivera was a linebacker on the Bears' Super Bowl XX championship team and the defensive coordinator of the Bears' Super Bowl XLI team. And he has many admirers in the Bears' locker room.
"It's a tough situation to be in," Bears center Roberto Garza said. "We've all been there before. He's a great coach and a good friend. It's unfortunate what he's going through, but I think he's gonna have those guys ready to play. We know what kind of a coach he is."
Bears coach Lovie Smith offered his support.
"We know that Ron and the rest of the staff is an excellent coaching staff with a lot of good players," Smith said. "And yet you go through some times like this. You just keep working on what you believe in, which Ron and their crew will do. We just hope they don't get it right this week. They'll be fine in time."