Ron Rivera
Rivera with the Panthers in 2016
Personal information
Born: January 7 1962 (1962-01-07) (age 58)
Birthplace: Fort Ord, California
College California
Head coach
Jersey #(s):
235 lb (107 kg)
Career information
NFL Draft / Round / Pick
Current team: Carolina Panthers
As player:
As coach:
Coaching Stats
Record (W/L/T):
Career Stats
Coaching stats Pro Football Reference
Career highlights
Highlights ;As player
As coach
  • AP NFL Coach of the Year (2013, 2015)
  • 2× PFWA NFL Coach of the Year (2013, 2015)
  • PFWA NFL Assistant Coach of the Year (2005)
Awards and Honors

Ronald Eugene "Ron" Rivera (born January 7, 1962)[1] is an American football coach and former player who is the head coach of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). He has also been the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears and San Diego Chargers.

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 Panthers. Rivera was recognized as the NFL Coach of the Year by the Associated Press in 2013 and in 2015.[2] Since taking over the Panthers, he has led the team to three straight divisional titles, and an appearance in Super Bowl 50.

Early yearsEdit

Rivera was born on January 7, 1962, in Fort Ord, California. His father, Eugenio Rivera, was a Puerto Rican commissioned officer in the U.S. Army stationed in California. There he met his future wife, Dolores. Due to his father's military service, the family moved often, and Rivera was educated in military bases in Germany, Panama, Washington, D.C., and Maryland. Finally, the family settled in central California where he attended Seaside High School and began playing football.[3]

Playing careerEdit

College careerEdit

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.[4]

Professional careerEdit

In the 1984 NFL draft, Rivera was selected in the second round by the Chicago Bears. In 1985, he played in Super Bowl XX, where the Bears beat the New England Patriots 46–10. Rivera was the first Mexican/Puerto Rican to play on a Super Bowl championship team. He became a starter in 1988, serving for three seasons. Rivera played for the Bears for a total of nine seasons (1984–1992).[5]

Coaching careerEdit

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 EaglesEdit

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.

Chicago BearsEdit

On January 23, 2004, Rivera was named defensive coordinator of the Bears. In 2005, the Bears defense was rated second-best in the NFL.[6] 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.[6] 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.[7][8][9] 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.[10] On February 19, 2007, it was announced that Ron Rivera's contract with the Bears would not be renewed.[11]

San Diego ChargersEdit

The San Diego Chargers hired Rivera as team's inside linebackers coach after he left the Bears.[12] On October 28, 2008, Rivera was promoted to defensive coordinator with the Chargers after the team released former defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.[13] Rivera had used the 4–3 defense for most of his coaching career, but adopted a 3–4 scheme with the Chargers.

Carolina PanthersEdit

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.[14]

Over the first 34 games of his coaching career, Rivera 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.[15] 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.[15] 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.[15]

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.[16] Rivera has expressed discontent with the nickname, however, explaining he is "a calculated risk taker" not a gambler.[17] 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. The Panthers produced the best season in franchise history, and one of the best regular seasons in NFL history. The Panthers started the season 14–0, the best regular-season start in franchise history. They ultimately finished 15–1 (their only loss was in week 16 in Atlanta, a 20–13 defeat by the Falcons), 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. The Panthers fell to the Denver Broncos by a score of 24–10.[18]

Despite reaching the playoffs three years in a row from 2013–2015, Rivera has been unable to produce back-to-back winning seasons as a head coach. Following a 22–19 playoff-clinching victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 16 of the 2017 season, Rivera became the first head coach in Panthers history with four playoff appearances. On January 6, 2018, Rivera signed a two year contract extension.[19]

Head coaching recordEdit

Team Year Regular season Postseason
Won Lost Ties Win % Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CAR2011 6 10 0 .375 3rd in NFC South
CAR2012 7 9 0 .438 2nd in NFC South
CAR2013 12 4 0 .750 1st in NFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to San Francisco 49ers in NFC Divisional Game
CAR2014 7 8 1 .469 1st in NFC South 1 1 .500 Lost to Seattle Seahawks in NFC Divisional Game
CAR2015 15 1 0 .938 1st in NFC South 2 1 .667 Lost to Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50
CAR2016 6 10 0 .375 4th in NFC South
CAR2017 11 5 0 .688 2nd in NFC South 0 1 .000 Lost to New Orleans Saints in NFC Wild Card Game
CAR2018 1 1 0 .500 3rd in NFC South
Total 65 48 1 .575 3 4 .429

Personal lifeEdit

Rivera was born to a Puerto Rican father, who served a career in the U.S. military, and a Mexican mother. He has two children, a son, Christopher, and a daughter, Courtney, with his wife, Stephanie, who is a former assistant coach for the WNBA's Washington Mystics.[20][21] 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.[22] On January 5, 2015, Rivera's home in Charlotte, North Carolina, caught on fire. Everyone escaped the house without injuries.[23] On July 28, 2015, Rivera's brother Mickey died after a two-year battle with cancer.[24]

Rivera has been a resident of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.[25]


  1. Ronald E Rivera in the California Birth Index, 1905–1995. Retrieved on 28 February 2017.
  2. Ron Rivera hired as Panthers' coach. ESPN, 2011-01-11
  3. ESPN
  4. Foundation, National Football. Hall of Fame Candidate Capsule: Ron Rivera > National Football Foundation > NewsDetail.
  5. Mayer, Larry (2014-01-12). Rivera, Harbaugh to clash in playoffs. Chicago Bears. Retrieved on 2014-01-12.
  6. 6.0 6.1 2005 Chicago Bears Statistics & Players. Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
  7. Prisuta: Steelers assistant talks with Cardinals – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (2007-01-19). Archived from the original on 2007-01-24. Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
  8. Brown: Is Rivera worth the wait? – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. (2007-01-19). Archived from the original on 2007-03-02. Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
  9. John ClaytonNFL senior writerFollowArchive (2007-02-13). ESPN – Don't expect many big names in Chargers' search – NFL. Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
  10. ESPN – Chicago not retaining D-coordinator Rivera – NFL. (2007-02-19). Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
  11. NFL News, Videos, Scores, Teams, Standings, Stats – FOX Sports on MSN. Archived from the original on 2007-02-28. Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
  12. John ClaytonNFL senior writerFollowArchive (2007-02-20). ESPN – Rivera joins the Chargers as linebackers coach – NFL. Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
  13. ESPN – Chargers fire Cottrell, name Rivera new defensive coordinator. (2008-10-28). Retrieved on 2012-08-03.
  14. Ron Rivera expected to be fired today. (December 2013). Retrieved on January 2, 2015.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Pompei, Dan (December 6, 2013). The Making of Riverboat Ron. Sports on Earth. Retrieved on January 2, 2015.
  16. Newton, David (November 14, 2013). 'Riverboat Ron' name catching on. ESPN. Retrieved on January 2, 2015.
  17. Newton, David (October 15, 2013). Rivera calculated, not a Riverboat gambler. ESPN. Retrieved on January 2, 2015.
  18. Super Bowl 50 – Denver Broncos vs. Carolina Panthers – February 7th, 2016. Retrieved on 7 August 2017.
  19. Panthers sign Rivera to two-year contract extension. Retrieved on January 6, 2018.
  20. Baseball Blue Jays: Recalled PPeter Munro from....
  21. Daniel, P.K. (July 13, 2010). There’s more than one Rivera calling the shots. San Diego Union-Tribune. Retrieved on February 7, 2016.
  22. – University of California Official Athletic Site.
  23. EndPlay (5 January 2015). Fire causes $500K damage at Panthers' coach Ron Rivera's home.
  24. Newton, Michael (July 28, 2015). Ron Rivera could miss start of Panthers camp after brother's death he's also mexican. ESPN. Retrieved on July 29, 2015.
  25. Bannon, Terry. "Familiar faces to greet Rivera Sunday", Chicago Tribune, September 30, 2004. Accessed January 2, 2018. "In five years as the Philadelphia Eagles' linebackers coach, Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera learned about coaching defense from coordinator Jim Johnson and picked up a few sidekicks in his Cherry Hill, N.J., neighborhood."

External linksEdit

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