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Ron Rivera
Head Coach
College:
California
Experience:
19

Bio

COACHING
Known around the league as a teacher with an innate ability to build his team around the strengths of his players, Ron Rivera inherited a 2-14 team as a rookie head coach in 2011 and guided it back to relevance in short order.

In 2014, Carolina became the first repeat champion in the NFC South since realignment in 2002. The Panthers finished the regular season with four consecutive victories to claim the division, then added a home win over Arizona in the NFC Wild Card before losing to Seattle in an NFC Divisional Playoff. The victory over the Cardinals was the first playoff win for Carolina since 2005, and the Panthers are one of just five teams to reach the divisional round each of the last two seasons.

Brought to Carolina for his defensive expertise, Rivera has not disappointed as the 2014 Panthers put together a third consecutive top 10 finish in yards allowed, joining Seattle and San Francisco as the only teams to accomplish the feat. Carolina's rushing offense ranked seventh in the NFL over the final seven games, including the playoffs, and the Panthers went 4-0 in December. That improved Rivera's December record to 15-3, tied for the best mark in the NFL since 2011.

Like Rivera, the Panthers' rebound has been steady and solid, starting with six wins his first season in 2011 and seven victories in 2012 before the division championship and NFL Coach of the Year honors in 2013. Laying a foundation that includes back-to-back rookies of the year in quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly, Rivera has blended veteran and young talent into productive units on both sides of the ball.

The 2014 season reflected Rivera's ability to maintain control under adversity. The Panthers lost All-Pro defensive end Greg Hardy after the opening week to the Commissioner's exempt list; they used seven different offensive line combinations over seven consecutive weeks; they saw their quarterback play through ankle surgery, fractured ribs and a car accident; and Rivera himself endured a house fire that forced him to relocate the week of their final playoff game. Still, despite a 3-8-1 start, Rivera kept his team focused through it all, and Carolina managed to transition from a team that won 12 games in 2013 to one that sprinted to the finish line for another division title. By the end of the season, seven rookies dotted the starting lineup.

Rivera came to Carolina with a reputation for hard work, attention to detail and preparation. Those were also the qualities he exhibited in his first campaign as the Panthers tripled their win total from the previous season despite no offseason and an epidemic of defensive injuries. Rivera did not even meet his team until they reported to training camp and, following a slow start, held it together to finish with four wins in the final six games.

His success was no surprise, for Rivera has excelled as a coach and player during his 27 years in the NFL, serving 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. In 18 seasons as a coach and nine as a player, he has been with teams that have reached the playoffs 18 times, including eight conference championships and two Super Bowls.

The mentality of the Chargers defense that Rivera coached and the Bears defense on which he played resonates within the head coach, and he has transferred it to the Panthers. In 2012, Carolina finished the season ranked 10th in yards allowed, a jump of 18 places from 2011. It was on the strength of that defensive improvement that the Panthers won five of their last six games to improve their win total for the second consecutive year.

Carolina made a similar jump on offense in Rivera's first season. With the addition of Newton, the Panthers vaulted from last to seventh in total offense in 2011.

Rivera's identity has been influenced by two innovative defensive coordinators. As a player, Rivera was coached by Buddy Ryan, the architect of the "46 Defense," which involved blitzing on nearly every down. As a coach, Rivera toiled under the late Jim Johnson, a highly regarded defensive coordinator renowned for his aggressive approach.

His identity also has been shaped by his family. The son of a U.S. Army officer and the second youngest of four boys, Rivera learned from a young age about chain of command and many of the principles he teaches and expects from his players.

"Coming from a military background, there's a lot of discipline, a lot of structure. That's how I feel when I coach," Rivera said.

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. Under 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 percent) and topping the NFC in red zone defense (42.6 percent).

The next 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 percent) and rated second in third-down efficiency (31.9 percent).

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. Twice during Rivera's tenure with the Eagles, the team finished second in the NFL in scoring defense and in 2001 held all 16 of its opponents to less than 21 points - making them just the fourth team in NFL history to do so. In Rivera's five seasons with the Eagles, a member of his linebacking corps led the team in tackles four times.

Rivera gained his first coaching experience with the Bears as defensive quality control coach from 1997-98.

He is just the third Latino head coach in NFL history, joining Tom Flores with the Oakland Raiders from 1979-87 and Seattle Seahawks from 1992-94 and Tom Fears with the New Orleans Saints from 1967-70.

PLAYING AND PERSONAL
Following his retirement, 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.

He has carried that same community commitment to coaching, sponsoring a bowling tournament to benefit the Ronald McDonald House, USO and Humane Society.

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.


COACHING HISTORY
Year Position Team
1997-98 Defensive Quality Control Chicago Bears
1999-2003 Linebackers Philadelphia Eagles
2004-06 Defensive Coordinator Chicago Bears
2007-08 Inside Linebackers San Diego Chargers
2008-10 Defensive Coordinator San Diego Chargers
2011-current Head Coach Carolina Panthers

COACHING
Known around the league as a teacher with an innate ability to build his team around the strengths of his players, Ron Rivera inherited a 2-14 team as a rookie head coach in 2011 and guided it back to relevance in short order.

In 2014, Carolina became the first repeat champion in the NFC South since realignment in 2002. The Panthers finished the regular season with four consecutive victories to claim the division, then added a home win over Arizona in the NFC Wild Card before losing to Seattle in an NFC Divisional Playoff. The victory over the Cardinals was the first playoff win for Carolina since 2005, and the Panthers are one of just five teams to reach the divisional round each of the last two seasons.

Brought to Carolina for his defensive expertise, Rivera has not disappointed as the 2014 Panthers put together a third consecutive top 10 finish in yards allowed, joining Seattle and San Francisco as the only teams to accomplish the feat. Carolina's rushing offense ranked seventh in the NFL over the final seven games, including the playoffs, and the Panthers went 4-0 in December. That improved Rivera's December record to 15-3, tied for the best mark in the NFL since 2011.

Like Rivera, the Panthers' rebound has been steady and solid, starting with six wins his first season in 2011 and seven victories in 2012 before the division championship and NFL Coach of the Year honors in 2013. Laying a foundation that includes back-to-back rookies of the year in quarterback Cam Newton and linebacker Luke Kuechly, Rivera has blended veteran and young talent into productive units on both sides of the ball.

The 2014 season reflected Rivera's ability to maintain control under adversity. The Panthers lost All-Pro defensive end Greg Hardy after the opening week to the Commissioner's exempt list; they used seven different offensive line combinations over seven consecutive weeks; they saw their quarterback play through ankle surgery, fractured ribs and a car accident; and Rivera himself endured a house fire that forced him to relocate the week of their final playoff game. Still, despite a 3-8-1 start, Rivera kept his team focused through it all, and Carolina managed to transition from a team that won 12 games in 2013 to one that sprinted to the finish line for another division title. By the end of the season, seven rookies dotted the starting lineup.

Rivera came to Carolina with a reputation for hard work, attention to detail and preparation. Those were also the qualities he exhibited in his first campaign as the Panthers tripled their win total from the previous season despite no offseason and an epidemic of defensive injuries. Rivera did not even meet his team until they reported to training camp and, following a slow start, held it together to finish with four wins in the final six games.

His success was no surprise, for Rivera has excelled as a coach and player during his 27 years in the NFL, serving 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. In 18 seasons as a coach and nine as a player, he has been with teams that have reached the playoffs 18 times, including eight conference championships and two Super Bowls.

The mentality of the Chargers defense that Rivera coached and the Bears defense on which he played resonates within the head coach, and he has transferred it to the Panthers. In 2012, Carolina finished the season ranked 10th in yards allowed, a jump of 18 places from 2011. It was on the strength of that defensive improvement that the Panthers won five of their last six games to improve their win total for the second consecutive year.

Carolina made a similar jump on offense in Rivera's first season. With the addition of Newton, the Panthers vaulted from last to seventh in total offense in 2011.

Rivera's identity has been influenced by two innovative defensive coordinators. As a player, Rivera was coached by Buddy Ryan, the architect of the "46 Defense," which involved blitzing on nearly every down. As a coach, Rivera toiled under the late Jim Johnson, a highly regarded defensive coordinator renowned for his aggressive approach.

His identity also has been shaped by his family. The son of a U.S. Army officer and the second youngest of four boys, Rivera learned from a young age about chain of command and many of the principles he teaches and expects from his players.

"Coming from a military background, there's a lot of discipline, a lot of structure. That's how I feel when I coach," Rivera said.

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. Under 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 percent) and topping the NFC in red zone defense (42.6 percent).

The next 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 percent) and rated second in third-down efficiency (31.9 percent).

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. Twice during Rivera's tenure with the Eagles, the team finished second in the NFL in scoring defense and in 2001 held all 16 of its opponents to less than 21 points - making them just the fourth team in NFL history to do so. In Rivera's five seasons with the Eagles, a member of his linebacking corps led the team in tackles four times.

Rivera gained his first coaching experience with the Bears as defensive quality control coach from 1997-98.

He is just the third Latino head coach in NFL history, joining Tom Flores with the Oakland Raiders from 1979-87 and Seattle Seahawks from 1992-94 and Tom Fears with the New Orleans Saints from 1967-70.

PLAYING AND PERSONAL
Following his retirement, 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.

He has carried that same community commitment to coaching, sponsoring a bowling tournament to benefit the Ronald McDonald House, USO and Humane Society.

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.


COACHING HISTORY
Year Position Team
1997-98 Defensive Quality Control Chicago Bears
1999-2003 Linebackers Philadelphia Eagles
2004-06 Defensive Coordinator Chicago Bears
2007-08 Inside Linebackers San Diego Chargers
2008-10 Defensive Coordinator San Diego Chargers
2011-current Head Coach Carolina Panthers
 

Recent Articles

Recent Videos

  • Camp Daily: In the zone

    (3:00) Posted Aug 3, 2015

    Panthers sharpen their red zone efficiency despite the heat as head coach Ron Rivera returns from a two-day absence to lead the team.

  • Ron Rivera: Pressing forward

    (10:04) Posted Aug 3, 2015

    Head coach returns to practice and is pleased with the way Panthers work in the heat while shorthanded.

  • Total Access: Man in charge

    (2:47) Posted Jul 31, 2015

    Our cameras follow Panthers head coach Ron Rivera during the opening practice of training camp.

  • Ron Rivera: Solid start

    (1:43) Posted Jul 31, 2015

    Head coach was pleased with the performance of his team and the boost it received from the thousands of fans in attendance at the Lowe's kickoff party.

  • Ron Rivera: A brother's inspiration

    (6:17) Posted Jul 30, 2015

    Head coach arrives at training camp with a heavy heart after the death of his older brother Mickey but also with a deep sense of purpose.