Ron Rivera will be the new head coach of the Carolina Panthers, according to numerous reports.
Rivera, a long-time defensive coach and coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers, takes over a team that went 2-14 in 2010 and lost its preferred option as the number one pick in the 2011 NFL Draft when Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck elected not to declare himself eligible.
For all the challenges the organization faces, they made a good hire in Rivera and will not regret it.
Read on for five reasons Rivera fits nicely in Carolina.
After the Panthers ranked last in the league in nearly every important offensive category, it would have been easy for the team to justify bringing in an offensive mastermind in the vein of Charlie Weis to change those fortunes.
In truth, though, the problem was not coaching, but talent, and a new offensive game plan could not have cured the lack of good players from which the team suffered.
Rivera is a defensive whiz, and this defense (which allowed the sixth-fewest yards per play in the NFL in 2010) has a chance to thrive under whatever system he implements.
Too many respected gurus of offense or defense—Mike Martz springs to mind—believe so firmly in their system that they will not allow it to be questioned or tinkered with. That kind of rigidity in decision-making is as fatal in football as it is in life in general.
Rivera has next-to none of that self-serving egotism. He has traditionally run a 4-3 defense, but with a number of talented guys who fit a 3-4 mold already in place when he became the defensive coordinator for San Diego, Rivera did not force his usual habits upon the team.
The players, who are always more important than their coaches and should be handled as such, responded by playing well and playing hard for him.
Part of what makes this such a good decision on the part of the Panthers is the fact that they waited this long to make it. By doing so, they allowed time for something to surprise them, as it surely did when Andrew Luck chose to stay at Stanford. If he had declared for the Draft, the team could have gone in another direction, favoring a more quarterback-friendly coach like Jim Harbaugh, in whom they never ultimately showed interest.
Now that the choice for the first pick likely comes down to Nick Fairley or Da'Quan Bowers, though, the team should look to build around its already strong defense. Rivera helps them do that in the best way possible.
Rivera's Chargers finished with the fewest yards per game allowed in the NFL in 2010, both overall and in passing specifically. They were fourth in the league against the rush. They allowed their opponents the least time of possession in football.
Nor was that the first time Rivera led the best defense in football. His 2005 Bears allowed just 202 points, the fewest in the league by a margin of 45 points.
Rivera played for the 1985 Bears, who won the Super Bowl.
He was the linebackers coach for the 2004 Eagles and coordinator for the 2006 Bears, each of whom went to the Super Bowl as well.
In fact, during Rivera's entire coaching career, he has been associated with a losing squad just once, in his first season with Philadelphia in 1999.
He will be ferocious in his search for the right coaches and players to lead Carolina back into the playoffs.