An intriguing name just hit the open market.
A guy who played under Buddy Ryan and coached under Jim Johnson.
Ron Rivera, head coach of the Panthers since 2011, was fired Tuesday. The Panthers have lost four straight games, falling to 5-7 after a 4-2 start. They haven’t won a playoff game since the 2015 Super Bowl season.
Rivera and Eagles head coach Doug Pederson are very close, and Rivera is a good name to keep in mind in case the Eagles make changes on their defensive coaching staff this offseason. Or before this offseason.
Rivera, a member of the legendary 1985 Bears Super Bowl defense under Ryan, was the Eagles’ linebackers coach under Johnson from 1999 through 2003. Pederson was the Eagles’ opening-day quarterback in 1999, and the two remained close.
“Just overall he’s a genuine human being,” Pederson said of Rivera in a conference call with Panthers writers last year, according to the Charlotte Observer. “A lot of respect for him and what he’s done not only on the field but off the field. His wife and my wife are old friends, as well.”
After he left Philadelphia, Rivera served as the Bears’ defensive coordinator from 2004 through 2006 and the Chargers’ defensive coordinator from 2008 through 2010. The Bears were third-best in the NFL under Rivera at 17.0 points per game.
The Panthers hired Rivera in 2011 and reached the playoffs four out of five years from 2013 through 2017, including a 15-1 record and Super Bowl loss to the Broncos in 2015.
Rivera had a 76-63-1 record in eight-plus seasons with the Panthers. Sean McDermott, who coached with Rivera here, was Rivera’s defensive coordinator from 2011 through 2016 before becoming head coach of the Bills.
It’s still probably more likely than unlikely that Jim Schwartz will be back as defensive coordinator. The Eagles did have a catastrophic day on defense Sunday in Miami, but the Eagles have allowed the 7th-fewest points in the NFL in four years under Schwartz and had the NFL's No. 4 defense in 2017, when the Eagles won the Super Bowl.
But if Sunday’s game winds up being the start of a late-season defensive collapse, there will be changes in the NovaCare Complex this offseason, and the Pederson-Rivera connection is too strong to ignore.
It’s possible Rivera gets another head coaching job, but if he doesn’t and Schwartz is out, he’d instantly be a leading candidate to return to Philadelphia.
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