New York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) - Carolina's Ron Rivera, who was signed to a three-year contract extension earlier this week, was honored Saturday as the NFL Coach of the Year in voting conducted by the Associated Press.
Carolina, behind quarterback Cam Newton, went 12-4 and won the NFC South in Rivera's third season at the helm.
Rivera is 25-23 as the Panthers coach. They have improved each year under Rivera and Newton, who both joined the team in 2011 -- Rivera as John Fox's replacement and Newton as the No. 1 draft pick.
The Panthers have won 16 of their last 20 regular-season games dating back to a four-game winning streak to end the 2012 season.
They had a franchise-record eight-game winning streak this season and earned the NFC's No. 2 seed, but lost 23-10 to San Francisco in the divisional round.
Rivera received 21 1/2 votes to beat out Kansas City's Andy Reid (13 1/2). New England's Bill Belichick (7), Philadelphia's Chip Kelly (4), Seattle's Pete Carroll (2) and Indianapolis' Bruce Arians (2) were the others receiving consideration.
This is the second time a Carolina coach has won the award. Dom Capers captured the honor in the 1996 season.