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Ron Rivera was named the fourth head coach in Carolina Panthers’ history on Jan. 11, 2011.
Rivera served as defensive coordinator for the San Diego Chargers’ top-ranked defense in 2010 and playing linebacker for the Chicago Bears’ top-ranked defense and Super Bowl XX championship team in 1985.
Rivera worked with the San Diego Chargers from 2007-10. He coached inside linebackers before taking over as the team’s defensive coordinator midway through the 2008 season.
With Rivera’s guidance, the pass defense steadied itself – intercepting nine passes and yielding 229.6 passing yards per game and 11 touchdown passes over the final eight games. Those numbers contrasted to the first half of the season when San Diego notched just seven picks and was victimized for 265.1 yards per game and 14 touchdowns through the air.
In Rivera’s first full season leading the defense in 2009, the Chargers ranked 16th in total defense and 11th against the pass. One of the unit’s strengths was playing tough after offensive turnovers, giving up only 44 points, a figure that tied New England for the second-fewest in the NFL.
Those rankings improved in 2010 as San Diego led the NFL with an average of 271.6 total yards allowed per game and gave up a league-low 177.8 passing yards per game. Overall, the Chargers finished in the top five in 11 different defensive statistical categories despite not having any defenders selected to the Pro Bowl.
From 2004-06, Rivera oversaw the Chicago Bears defense, engineering the unit to two top-five finishes in the league. Under Rivera’s direction, five different defensive players went to the Pro Bowl: linebacker Lance Briggs, safety Mike Brown, defensive tackle Tommie Harris, linebacker Brian Urlacher and cornerback Nathan Vasher.
In his first season as a defensive coordinator in 2004, Rivera presided over a defense that produced nine more takeaways and 17 more sacks than the previous year and scored a franchise record and NFC high six defensive touchdowns. The Bears also thrived on third down and buckled down inside their own 20-yard line, ranking first in the NFL in third-down efficiency (30.5%) and topping the NFC in red zone defense (42.6%).
The following year, Chicago continued to build on the foundation Rivera laid in 2004. The Bears won their first of two consecutive NFC North titles and stood second in the NFL in total defense. In surrendering the fewest points in the league, Rivera’s defense went 43 consecutive quarters without allowing more than seven points – the longest streak in the NFL since 1969. Chicago also led the NFL in red zone defense (32.5%) and rated second in third-down efficiency (31.9%).
During Rivera’s last season with the Bears in 2006, the defense paced the NFL with 44 takeaways and finished fifth in the league in total defense and third in scoring defense, helping propel Chicago to the NFC Championship and an appearance in Super Bowl XLI.
Prior to becoming a defensive coordinator, Rivera spent five seasons from 1999-2003 as the linebackers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, who advanced to the NFC Championship game in each of his final three seasons.
Following his retirement from his playing career, Rivera went into broadcasting. He covered the Bears and college football as a television analyst for WGN and SportsChannel Chicago for four years from 1993-96.
Selected in the second round of the 1984 NFL Draft by Chicago, Rivera played all nine of his pro seasons with the Bears. Primarily an outside linebacker, he appeared in 149 games with 62 starts (including 12 postseason contests with six starts) and posted 392 tackles, 7.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, nine interceptions and 15 passes defensed. Rivera was a member of six NFC Central division title teams and a Super Bowl XX championship team in 1985.
As a player, Rivera was known for both his skill and determination on the field and his dedication of time and energy to the community. As a result, he was named the Bears’ Man of the Year in 1988 and earned the club’s Ed Block Courage Award in 1989.
An All-American at the University of California, Rivera finished his career as the school’s all-time leader in sacks with 22 and tackles with 336. As a senior in 1983, he set the Bears’ single-season record for sacks with 13 and tackles for loss with 26.5.
Born Jan. 7, 1962 in Fort Ord, Calif. Rivera lived in Germany, Panama, Washington and Maryland before his family settled in Marina, Calif. He attended Seaside High School in Marina and was a three-sport star in football, basketball and baseball.