Ron Rivera: New Chargers Defensive Era or Bust?

Brian SmithCorrespondent IOctober 28, 2008

Now that the management of the San Diego Chargers have decided to part ways with passer-friendly Defensive Coordinator Ted Cottrell, this may be the start of the turn around of their season.

I honestly believe that the 3-5 record of the Chargers can be attributed to the playcalling of the defense by Cottrell. With the exception of the Miami game, the Chargers should be 7-1 at this point.

The move was the most logical thing to do with the bye week this weekend for the Chargers. Had they waited, it may have caused more problems in the long run. Granted, the middle of the season isn't the best time to make any coaching changes, but, the situation with Ted Cottrell was just not something the Chargers could continue with.

The problems on defense were too obvious and too crippling for the Chargers to have any hopes of making it to the playoffs this year, had Cottrell stayed. Until the Chargers resume play, no one will know if the change will make any difference.

Inside linebackers coach Ron Rivera will now take over the reins of a highly talented, but lowly motivated Chargers defense. Rivera's job will not be easy. One of the hardest things for a coach to do is get rid of bad habits of players. The other difficult part will be getting the players to trust Rivera and buy into his scheme.

Let's look at some of the pluses of Ron Rivera.

1. Super Bowl XX with the Chicago Bears. He becomes the second former Bears defensive player, of that great great defense back in '84, that's been promoted in a week. He's been there, done that, and that's a lot of 'cred right there.

2. He's played for Buddy Ryan. Can you say "Smash Mouth"?

3. As linebackers coach for the Eagles, he helped form a solid defense for the Eagles, in which the Eagles made it to the NFC Championship game in three consecutive seasons.

4. While with the Bears as their Defensive Coordinator, he molded one of the best defensive teams in the league, and the Bears made it to their first Super Bowl since Rivera was a rookie.


There are downsides to Ron Rivera.

1. His experience is mainly with the 4-3 defense and San Diego's D is geared towards the 3-4.

2. At this point in the season, his impact may not be felt in time to turn the defense around.

Either way, the firing of Ted Cottrell was for the best, in my opinion. The defense had regressed so far compared to the last couple of years that the change had to be made. Ron Rivera should be able to restart the fire in the defense, and with the bye week, the turnaround may happen sooner than later.

A couple of things that Rivera should focus on: Getting linebacker Stephen Cooper and cornerback Antonio Cromartie back on track. Cooper was out for the first four games of the season for testing positive for a banned substance, and Cromartie has been listening too much to Deion "I don't tackle" Sanders.

The biggest task though, needs to be on reestablishing the pass rush. With the current roster of the Chargers, I see no reason why they should not be able to put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, but, also keep teams from maintaining long, sustained drives.

With Ron Rivera, the Chargers' defense can't get any worse, in my opinion. I think he will be someone the players will listen to and will want to perform for and that is never a bad thing.

This change could be just the right thing that the Chargers defense needs to get its swagger back. Yes, we all know Merriman isn't in there, and he is a huge presence, but, if the players look within themselves and trust in Rivera, they just may be able to salvage what's left of the season.