The Carolina Panthers fired coach Ron Rivera on Tuesday after a 5-7 start to
"I believe this is the best decision for the long-term success of our team," owner David Tepper said in a statement. "I have a great deal of respect for Ron and the contributions he has made to this franchise and to this community. I wish him the best. I will immediately begin the search for the next head coach of the Carolina Panthers."
Rivera has been the Panthers' head coach since 2011, compiling a 76-63-1 record in nine seasons. He led Carolina to a 3-4 mark in four postseason appearances, including the Super Bowl after the 2015 season, when the Panthers posted a 15-1 regular-season mark.
The team picked secondary coach Perry Fewell as its interim head coach. Offensive coordinator Norv Turner will become the special assistant to the head coach, and quarterbacks coach Scott Turner will serve as offensive coordinator.
--One week after guiding the Pittsburgh Steelers to a victory over the Cleveland Browns, rookie Devlin Hodges was named starting quarterback for a second consecutive week.
Hodges will be under center Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals after leading the Steelers to a 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns last weekend, when he was 14 of 21 for 212 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
Hodges took over in the second half for Mason Rudolph on Nov. 24 and rallied the Steelers to a 16-10 win after throwing a 79-yard TD pass to James Washington on his second pass of the game. Hodges, 23, was an undrafted free agent out of Samford.
--The New York Jets officially ended the season of linebacker C.J. Mosley, placing him on injured reserve after he played in parts of only two games following his big-money free agent signing with the team last offseason.
Mosley, 27, signed a five-year, $85 million contract with $51 million guaranteed with the Jets in May. The defensive star was in the midst of a dominant season opener against Buffalo (six tackles, fumble recovery, pick-six TD) when he injured his groin.
The four-time Pro Bowler tried for weeks to improve enough to see the field, eventually playing against the New England Patriots in Week 7. But over time, the groin injury began extending into his core muscles. Mosley will undergo surgery, according to the Jets.
--The Cleveland Browns released veteran defensive end Chris Smith, less than three months after his girlfriend was killed in an accident on the side of a Cleveland highway.
Smith was in the second year of a three-year, $12 million deal with the Browns. He played in nine games this season but did not see action Sunday at Pittsburgh.
On Sept. 11, Smith swerved and crashed his car after a tire malfunction. While waiting for assistance on the side of the road, Smith's girlfriend, Petara Cordero, was struck and killed by another vehicle. Cordero's death came a month after she gave birth to the couple's first child. Smith was not injured in the accident.
--George Atkinson III, who played running back at Notre Dame and had a brief stint in the NFL, has died. He was 27. The Athletic's Pete Sampson reported his death Monday night. The cause was not revealed.
Atkinson's twin brother, Josh, died of suicide last Christmas, shortly after the death of their mother. She suffered from mental illness and Crohn's disease. Their father, George Atkinson II, played in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders (1968-77) and the Denver Broncos (1979).
The Atkinson twins were raised in Northern California and earned scholarships to Notre Dame. In three seasons there, George III rushed for 943 yards and 10 touchdowns. He went on to appear in five games with the Raiders (2014) and 16 with the Cleveland Browns (2016), primarily returning kicks.