INDIANAPOLIS – The branches on Ron Rivera's coaching tree are a lot larger these days.
Two years ago, Sean McDermott and Steve Wilks were defensive assistants for Rivera in Carolina. Now they're head coaches in Buffalo and Arizona, and both credit Rivera for putting them in position to lead a franchise.
"It really starts with the way Ron shapes the culture in Carolina," McDermott said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "He does a really good job of allowing people enough space to do their jobs and be themselves, and then Ron does a nice job of delegating within that.
"He gives his assistant coaches enough ownership in the process and preparing them along the way."
The next one on the fast track could be Eric Washington, who was promoted to defensive coordinator this offseason after serving as Carolina's defensive line coach since 2011, when Rivera first arrived.
But it's first thing's first for Washington, and that means maximizing the potential of the Panthers defense in 2018.
"I'm confident Eric will do a great job," McDermott said. "He's one of the better D-line coaches that I've ever been around. He's a student of the game, he's passionate and he's got the leadership skills that will set him apart. He's got great command of the room."
Wilks is eager to see what happens with the defense he left behind. He's confident he left the unit in good hands.
"(Eric is) a good friend of mine. A very intelligent guy. He understands the game. And most importantly, he's a leader," Wilks said Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"I think he's going to do a tremendous job – he'll probably do even better than what I did. I'm excited for him."