Ron Rivera

This article is about the American football coach. For the public health innovator, see Ron Rivera (public health).
Ron Rivera

Color head-and-torso photograph of dark-haired Hispanic man (Ron Rivera), wearing a white and sky blue sport shirt and rectangular eyeglasses, seated at a press conference table with another man.

Rivera in 2016
Carolina Panthers
Position: Head coach
Personal information
Date of birth: (1962-01-07) January 7, 1962
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
As player
As coach
  • NFC champion (2006, 2015)
  • 2x AP NFL Coach of the Year (2013, 2015)
  • 3× PFWA NFL Coach of the Year (2013, 2015, 2016)
  • PFWA NFL Assistant Coach of the Year (2005)
Career NFL statistics
Quarterback sacks: 7.5
Interceptions: 9
Player stats at
Head coaching record
Regular season: 50–37–1 (.574)
Postseason: 3–3 (.500)
Career: 53–39–1 (.575)
Coaching stats at PFR

Ronald Eugene "Ron" Rivera (born January 7, 1962) is an American football coach and former player who is the head coach of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL).

Rivera played college football at the University of California in Berkeley, and was recognized as an All-American linebacker. He was selected in the second round of the 1984 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, and was a backup on the 1985 team which won Super Bowl XX.

As a coach, Rivera was the defensive coordinator for Bears in the 2006, who were NFC champions and competed in Super Bowl XLI. In 2011, he was named head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Rivera was recognized as the NFL Coach of the Year by the Associated Press in 2013 and in 2015.[1] Since taking over the Panthers, he has led the team to three straight divisional titles, and an appearance in Super Bowl 50.

Early years

Born in Fort Ord, California, Rivera's father, Eugenio, was a Puerto Rican commissioned officer in the U.S. Army and was stationed in California, where he met Rivera's mother, who is Mexican. As a result of his father's military service, Rivera was raised and educated at military bases in Germany, Panama, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. His family later moved to Monterey, California, where he attended Seaside High School and first started playing football.

Playing career

College career

Rivera was granted a football scholarship to California, where he was a consensus All-American linebacker, leading the Golden Bears in tackles for his last three years as a player. He once held Cal's all-time sack and career tackles records, and still holds the record for most tackles for loss in a season, set in 1983. Rivera was the MVP of the 1984 East-West Shrine Game.[2]

Pro career

In the 1984 NFL draft, Rivera was selected in the second round by the Chicago Bears. During the 1985 season, he played in Super Bowl XX, where the Bears routed the New England Patriots, 46-10. Rivera was the first Mexican/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

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

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

On January 23, 2004, Rivera was named defensive coordinator of the Bears. In 2005, the Bears' defense was rated second-best in the NFL.[4] The Bears qualified for the NFC playoffs, losing in the second 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

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

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

During his first year as head coach, the Panthers went 6–10 and finished third in the division. In 2012 the Panthers finished 7–9 and finished second in the division. 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 that 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 3, Rivera went for the touchdown instead of a field goal. A Mike Tolbert run found the end zone, and 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 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] Nonetheless, he has since embraced the nickname; his Twitter nickname is "RiverboatRonHC." The Panthers went 11–1 to finish the season, including a then-franchise record eight-game winning streak, to win the NFC South title and make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. 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.

The team's momentum would continue in 2015. Rivera led the Panthers to the best season in franchise history, and one of the best regular seasons in NFL history. The Panthers started the season 14-0, easily the best regular-season start in franchise history. They ultimately finished 15-1, (their only loss in wk 16 in Atlanta to the Falcons, 20-13) a franchise record for wins in a season, to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Playoffs by a score of 31-24, and routed the Arizona Cardinals with a 49-15 victory in the NFC Championship Game, leading the Panthers to their second Super Bowl appearance. Rivera is the fifth man of color to lead a team to the Super Bowl. He was also recognized as the 2015 AP NFL Coach of the Year; his second such honor of his career. On February 7, 2016, Rivera coached the Panthers in Super Bowl 50, but lost 24-10 to the Denver Broncos.

Head coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
WonLostTiesWin %Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CAR2011 6100.375 3rd in NFC South - - - Did Not Qualify
CAR2012 790.438 2nd in NFC South - - - Did Not Qualify
CAR2013 1240.750 1st in NFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Game
CAR2014 781.4691st in NFC South 1 1 .500Lost to Seattle Seahawks in NFC Divisional Game
CAR2015 1510.9381st in NFC South 2 1 .667 Lost to Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50
CAR 2016 4 7 .375 - - - Did Not Qualify
CAR Total50371.57433.500

Personal life

Rivera is married and has two children with his wife Stephanie, a former assistant coach for the WNBA's Washington Mystics.[16][17] 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.[18] On January 5, 2015, Rivera's home in Charlotte, North Carolina, caught on fire. Everyone escaped the house without injuries.[19] On July 28, 2015, Rivera's brother Mickey died after a two-year battle with cancer.[20]

See also


  1. Ron Rivera hired as Panthers' coach. ESPN, 2011-01-11
  3. Mayer, Larry (2014-01-12). "Rivera, Harbaugh to clash in playoffs". Chicago Bears. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
  4. 1 2 "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. 1 2 3 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.
  17. Daniel, P.K. (July 13, 2010). "There's more than one Rivera calling the shots". San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved February 7, 2016.
  20. Newton, Michael (July 28, 2015). "Ron Rivera could miss start of Panthers camp after brother's death he's also mexican". ESPN. Retrieved July 29, 2015.

External links

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