Ron Rivera

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This article is about the American football coach. For the public health innovator, see Ron Rivera (public health).
Ron Rivera
Ron Rivera (cropped).jpg
Ron Rivera
Carolina Panthers
Position: Head Coach
Personal information
Date of birth: (1962-01-07) January 7, 1962 (age 53)
Place of birth: Fort Ord, California
Height: 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m)
Weight: 235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
High school: Seaside (CA)
College: California
NFL draft: 1984 / Round: 2 / Pick: 44
Career history
As player:
As coach:
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Sacks: 7.5
Interceptions: 9
Stats at
Head coaching record
Regular season: 41–31–1 (.568)
Postseason: 1–2 (.333)
Career record: 42–33–1 (.559)
Coaching stats at

Ronald Eugene Rivera (born January 7, 1962) is an American football coach and former player, and is currently the head coach of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League where he won the 2013 AP NFL Coach of the Year.[1] Rivera played college football for California, and was recognized as an All-American linebacker. He was selected in the second round of the 1984 NFL Draft, and played professionally for the 1985 Chicago Bears, who won Super Bowl XX. As a coach, Rivera was the defensive coordinator for the 2006 Chicago Bears, who won the National Football Conference championship and competed in Super Bowl XLI.

Early years[edit]

Rivera was born in Fort Ord, California. His father was a Puerto Rican commissioned officer in the United States Army and stationed in California. There he met his future wife, Rivera's mother, who is of Mexican heritage. As a result of his father's military service, Rivera had to travel and was educated in military bases in Germany, Panama, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Finally his family moved to Monterey, California. There, he attended Seaside High School, where he first started playing football.

Playing career[edit]

College career[edit]

Rivera was granted a college scholarship and played for the Golden Bears at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a consensus All-American linebacker, leading the team in tackles for his last three years as a player. He once held his school's all-time sack and career tackles records. Rivera still holds the Cal record for most tackles for loss in a season, which he set in 1983. He was the 1983 Lombardi Award Winner as the nation's top college football lineman, and the MVP of the 1984 East-West Shrine Game.[2]

Pro career[edit]

In the 1984 NFL Draft, Rivera was selected in the second round by the Chicago Bears. During the 1985 season, Rivera played in Super Bowl XX, where the Bears beat the New England Patriots, 46-10. He thus became the first Puerto Rican to play on a Super Bowl championship team. He became the starter in 1988, serving for three seasons. Rivera played for the Bears for a total of nine seasons (1984–1992).[3]

Coaching career[edit]

In 1993, Rivera went to work for WGN-TV and SportsChannel Chicago as a TV analyst covering the Bears and college football. In 1996, he became a defense quality control coach for the Bears.

Philadelphia Eagles[edit]

In 1999, Rivera was named linebackers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles. During his tenure the Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship for three consecutive seasons. He is credited with developing linebacker Jeremiah Trotter into a two-time Pro Bowl performer.

Back in Chicago[edit]

On January 23, 2004, Rivera was named the Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator. In 2005, the Chicago Bears defense was rated second-best in the NFL.[4] The Bears qualified for the NFC playoffs losing in the 2nd Round to the Carolina Panthers 29-21. The 2005 performance of the Chicago Bears earned him consideration for Head Coach assignments from several NFL teams.

In 2006, the Bears’ defensive efforts failed to match the success of their 2005 season. Nevertheless, the team was still a notable presence in league, finishing with the league’s third ranked and conference’s top-ranked points allowed category.[4] The defense’s success earned Rivera recognition among franchises looking for new head coaches. The Arizona Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers interviewed him in January 2007. He was a candidate for the vacant Dallas Cowboys head coaching position, a job that ultimately went to San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. Rivera was named as a potential candidate to replace the fired Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego, but the job was filled by Norv Turner, the brother of fellow offensive coordinator, Ron Turner, Rivera's offensive counterpart in Chicago.[5][6][7] After the announcement, ESPN reported that the Bears were considering letting Rivera go. This came after several other teams interviewed him, and the negotiations between his representatives and the Bears were making little progress.[8] On February 19, 2007, it was announced that Ron Rivera's contract with the Bears would not be renewed.[9]

San Diego Chargers[edit]

The San Diego Chargers hired Rivera as team's inside linebackers coach after he left the Bears.[10] On October 28, 2008, Rivera was promoted to defensive coordinator with the Chargers after the team released former defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.[11] Rivera had used the 4-3 defense for most of his coaching career, but adopted a 3-4 scheme with the Chargers.

Carolina Panthers[edit]

On January 11, 2011, Rivera was named the fourth head coach of the Carolina Panthers. He is the fourth Latino to be an NFL head coach, the first being New Orleans Saints coach Tom Fears, former Oakland Raiders and Seattle Seahawks coach Tom Flores the second and former New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts coach Jim E. Mora.

During his first year as Head Coach, his Panthers went 6-10 and finished third in the division. In 2012 the Panthers finished 7-9 and finished second in the division. However, following the 2012 season, Rivera was expected to be fired.[12]

Over the first 34 games of his coaching career, he was known for exceptionally conservative decision making which led to a 2-14 record in games decided by less than a touchdown. Against the Buffalo Bills in Week 2, Rivera decided to kick a field goal while up 3 points and facing a fourth and one deep inside the Bills territory late in the fourth quarter. The Bills proceeded to drive for a touchdown on their next drive, scoring on a touchdown pass with less than 20 seconds remaining in the game.[13] With Carolina opening the 2013 season 0-2, reports circled that the front office was already performing background checks on new potential head coach candidates. Rivera then changed his coaching philosophy and became a more aggressive coach.[13] Facing a 4th and 1 from the two yard line in the first quarter against the also 0-2 New York Giants in week three, Rivera went for the touchdown instead of a field goal. A Mike Tolbert run found the end zone, Carolina ended up winning the game 38-0.[13]

Over the next five games, the Panthers went for a first down five times in situations where conventional strategy called for a field goal attempt. They converted on four of them and ended each of those drives with touchdowns, all in wins. The lone failure was against the Cardinals when Brandon LaFell dropped a wide open pass across the middle from Cam Newton that would have resulted in a sure touchdown as well. This sudden aggression in his play-calling has earned Rivera the nickname "Riverboat Ron", after Riverboat gamblers.[14] Rivera has expressed discontent with the nickname, however, explaining he is "a calculated risk taker" not a gambler.[15] Rivera was honored as the 2013 AP NFL Coach of the Year.

In Rivera's fourth season as the Panthers' coach, Carolina recovered from a 3-8-1 start to win its final four regular season games and clinch the NFC South championship for the second consecutive year. The Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-16 in the NFC Wild Card playoff game for the team's first playoff win since 2005.

Head coaching record[edit]

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CAR 2011 6 10 0 .375 3rd in NFC South - - - -
CAR 2012 7 9 0 .438 2nd in NFC South - - - -
CAR 2013 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Game
CAR 2014 7 8 1 .469 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Seattle Seahawks in NFC Divisional Game
CAR 2015 11 0 0 1.000 TBD - - - -
CAR Total 43 31 1 .580 1 2 .333
Total 43 31 1 .580 1 2 .333

Personal life[edit]

Rivera is married and has two children, Christopher and Courtney, with his wife Stephanie, a former assistant coach for the WNBA's Washington Mystics.[16] In 2003, Rivera was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Cal (University of California, Berkeley) Sports Hall of Fame in 1994.[17] On January 5th, 2015 at 4:00 am, Rivera's home in Charlotte, NC caught on fire. Everyone escaped the house without injuries. [18] On July 28, 2015, Ron's brother Mickey died after a two-year battle with cancer. [19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ron Rivera hired as Panthers' coach. ESPN, 2011-01-11
  2. ^
  3. ^ Mayer, Larry (2014-01-12). "Rivera, Harbaugh to clash in playoffs". Chicago Bears. Retrieved 2014-01-12. 
  4. ^ a b "2005 Chicago Bears Statistics & Players". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  5. ^ "Prisuta: Steelers assistant talks with Cardinals - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review". 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  6. ^ "Brown: Is Rivera worth the wait? - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review". 2007-01-19. Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  7. ^ John ClaytonNFL senior writerFollowArchive (2007-02-13). "ESPN - Don't expect many big names in Chargers' search - NFL". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  8. ^ "ESPN - Chicago not retaining D-coordinator Rivera - NFL". 2007-02-19. Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  9. ^ "NFL News, Videos, Scores, Teams, Standings, Stats - FOX Sports on MSN". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  10. ^ John ClaytonNFL senior writerFollowArchive (2007-02-20). "ESPN - Rivera joins the Chargers as linebackers coach - NFL". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  11. ^ "ESPN - Chargers fire Cottrell, name Rivera new defensive coordinator". 2008-10-28. Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  12. ^ "Ron Rivera expected to be fired today". December 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b c Pompei, Dan (December 6, 2013). "The Making of Riverboat Ron". Sports on Earth. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  14. ^ Newton, David (November 14, 2013). "'Riverboat Ron' name catching on". ESPN. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  15. ^ Newton, David (October 15, 2013). "Rivera calculated, not a Riverboat gambler". ESPN. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Newton, Michael (July 28, 2015). "Ron Rivera could miss start of Panthers camp after brother's death". ESPN. Retrieved July 29, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Greg Blache
Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinators
Succeeded by
Bob Babich
Preceded by
Greg Manusky
San Diego Chargers Linebackers Coaches
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Ted Cottrell
San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinators
Succeeded by
Greg Manusky