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Rivera ready for next step

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Aug 29, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    I f you are superstitious, it was a decision by Ron Rivera to wear his Super Bowl XX ring that capitulated the Chargers to an eight-winning streak last season and a spot in the AFC Championship game.

    Or maybe, it's Rivera himself.
    It seems wherever the San Diego Chargers linebackers coach lands, success follows.
    "I've been blessed to be in good situations,'' said Rivera, a 1980 Seaside graduate, whose Chargers visit the 49ers tonight at Candlestick Park in both teams' final preseason tune-up.
    But it's more than that.
    Rivera can coach.
    Now it's a matter of when he will become a head coach.
    Two years ago, as the Bears defensive coordinator, Rivera was looked upon as a rising candidate, interviewing for eight NFL head coaching vacancies.
    Yet, the Bears march to the Super Bowl derailed most of them. The attention Rivera received or his desire to talk openly about being a head coach ultimately left him without a job when he and Chicago mutually parted ways.
    If you don't believe Rivera was the mastermind behind the Bears vaunted defense, look what they did last year in his absence?
    "I have goals, and being a head coach is one of them,'' Rivera said. "I'm patient. If it takes three or four years, that's fine. I have no timetable. My record stands for itself."
    His résumé certainly warrants attention. In nine years as an assistant for three different teams, the defenses have improved. As a defensive coordinator in Chicago, he had the top-ranked defense in the NFC during its Super Bowl run.

    "Coming to San Diego, I see defense in a different light,'' said Rivera, who has coached in three NFC title games and one AFC championship game. "I feel I can adapt to any defensive scheme. I've had some great conversations about football with Norv (Turner). I feel good about myself.''
    Who wouldn't when you are working with arguably the best linebacking core in the NFL, including perennial All-Pro Shawn Merriman, who has come under scrutiny of late for forgoing knee surgery to play this year.
    "I talked to him the other day,'' Rivera said. "He feels pretty confident about his knee. That's the thing that's a real plus. The plan is to use him like we did last year. He played physical for us. I don't foresee a change."
    Four doctors have suggested Merriman have season ending surgery for two torn ligaments. One even suggested it could be potentially career threatening if it isn't taken care of.
    "Every time you step on the field, it's a risk,'' said Rivera, whose parents still reside in Marina. "He told me 'coach I have to make sure I do my exercises and warm-up'. He thinks he can play through it.''
    Rivera isn't gong to lie to you. Losing Merriman would be a huge setback. Yet, one reason the Chargers are a Super Bowl contender is their depth, particularly on defense.
    "The players around him on defense are very solid,'' Rivera said. "We have three other good linebackers. You would certainly lose something with Shawn. But this defense isn't built around one person."
    If Rivera is guilty of anything, it's being honest and forthcoming.
    He was forced to take a step back, going from a coordinator to a linebackers coach for a team that didn't hire him as a head coach. Yet, he believes learning a new scheme will strengthen him as a head coaching candidate.
    Than again, landing jobs where the team has Super Bowl aspirations isn't always conducive to a team in immediate need of a head coach. And that's fine with Rivera. The ultimate goal is winning another Super Bowl.
    "Were on the cusp of getting ourselves back into the same position,'' Rivera said. "That's valuable to my résumé. If we're going deep into the playoffs, I can live with that. I'm a product of the situation and its circumstances."
    The decision to wear his Super Bowl ring 10 games into last fall isn't the reason the Chargers ran off eight straight wins. Of course, Rivera didn't want to tempt fate.
    Yet, if there were a turning point, it came with 'Trust.'
    Despite a new coaching staff determined to keep the systems in place, there was an adjustment period. While the terminology was the same, the approach was not.
    "I think we, as coaches, had to realize we're different than the old regime,'' Rivera said. "Even though we didn't alter the systems, it took a while for players to grasp what we were teaching.''
    Plus, expectations were so high.
    "Oh, before the season started, in some minds we were already in the Super Bowl,'' Rivera said. "Everyone said we are going. This year everyone has refocused. Nothing is a given."
    The Chargers will use tonight's final preseason game as an evaluation for those trying to make the team's final 53-man roster.
    "It's a big evaluation for the younger players,'' Rivera said. "There are 22 (starters) that will not play a big part in this game. And there are 22 players that won't be here Monday. It's important to those guys.''
    Unlike the three previous games, the final preseason game creates more jitters than joy. The Chargers will fly in this afternoon and fly immediately out after the game. "At this point, you just want to get out healthy,'' Rivera said. "You don't care about anything else. You hold your breath."


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