Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
By John Mullin
Ron Riveras sometimes-discouraging search for a job as a head coach finally is coming to a happy ending as the former Bears linebacker succeeds John Fox as head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
Rivera was let go by Lovie Smith in 2006 after a successful stint as defensive coordinator and he had interviewed over the intervening years for top jobs in Dallas, Arizona and elsewhere.
Rivera worked as San Diego Chargers linebackers coach in 2007 and moved up to defensive coordinator in 2008, answering any questions about whether a 4-3 linebacker and coach could work with a 3-4 scheme.
The kind of coach Chico is and will be is pretty much out there on the record. Everywhere hes played and coached, hes won. Period.
But theres always been one snapshot of Chico that has stayed with me.
Back in 1993 when Dave Wannstedt was coming in as Bears coach, changes were obviously coming. One day out in the back of old Halas Hall, sometime in late June when nobody was around after a conditioning session, Chico was there late, snapping balls to a ball boy standing 13 yards away.
What are you doing? I asked Ron.
Learning a new trade, he said, laughing. New regime, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Chico never became a long snapper. What he did do, however, was do what he had to do. He worked in as an analyst for WGN, then he worked as an unpaid quality control coach for the Bears, just to get experience around coaching.
The Eagles took a chance on him in 1999 and the late Jim Johnson hired him to coach linebackers. Philly went to three straight NFC Championship games and eventually Rivera landed on Lovie Smiths staff in 2004 as coordinator.
It really wasnt Smiths first choice; that was Rod Marinelli, whom the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wouldnt free up. Pro Personnel chief Bobby DePaul knew Chico from Philadelphia, which helped get Rivera in the door and he ran with the opportunity.
Hes still running with it. Good for a good guy who was always willing to do what he gotta do.
Teams are best served when they dont look past the game in front of them but the Bears front office doesnt have that luxury.
An early analysis is that the Bears will address, among other positions, defensive tackle in the coming offseason. Accordingly they signed Tank Tyler to a reservefutures contract Monday, picking up a veteran with 19 starts and 47 NFL games between 2007, when he was a third-round pick of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Also signed was wide receiver Onrea Jones, an undrafted free agent out of Hampton College who made the Houston Texans practice squad in 2007 and has been with San Diego, Green Bay, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.