I'm working on a column for Tuesday's newspaper and online about Ron Rivera, the San Diego defensive coordinator who has emerged as the frontrunner for the Carolina Panthers' head-coaching job.
Rivera looks like he will be the guy, barring a last-minute snag. So I've been reading up on him, trying to fill in some biographical details. Here are a few of the things I've found out (and here's a link to the full column, now posted):
-- Rivera, 49, played for nine years for the Chicago Bears as a linebacker, including on the 1985 Bears team that was one of the best of all time. Former teammate Walter Payton gave him a key recommendation to get Rivera’s foot in the door as a Bears’ assistant many years ago.
-- Rivera comes from a military family. He has three brothers and the family lived a somewhat nomadic life, including a stint in Germany. His heritage is both Puerto Rican (his father’s side) and Mexican (his mother’s). He was such a heady player that in high school his head coach has been quoted as saying he used to let Rivera call the defenses on the field.
-- Rivera’s wife Stephanie is a basketball coach. She was once an assistant in the WNBA and has lately been coaching on the high-school level in California. So they are a “two-coach” family, and some girls’ basketball team in the Charlotte area may get an overqualified coach pretty soon.
-- As a coach, Rivera is not a screamer. Those who know him describe him as calm under pressure. He has described himself as a “nitpicker.” A film-study junkie since high school, he is a longtime perfectionist. Rivera’s defenses haven’t been perfect, of course. The Chargers were No.1 in yardage allowed in 2010 among all defenses. But in two critical late-season losses, that defense gave up 251 yards rushing to Oakland and four TD passes to a Cincinnati team missing Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Not coincidentally, San Diego missed the playoffs this season.