Rivera named defensive coordinator

Lovie Smith has found his man to lead the defense and it's former Bear Ron Rivera.

The Bears announced Friday that former Bears linebacker Ron Rivera has been named as the team's defensive coordinator. Rivera, who played nine seasons for the Bears (1984-92), was a member of Chicago's Super Bowl championship team in 1986 and began his coaching career as a defensive quality control assistant with the team in 1997. Rivera has spent the last five seasons as linebackers coach for the Philadelphia Eagles (1999-2003).

During his tenure in Philadelphia, the Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship game each of the past three seasons and during that stretch ranked near the top of the League in points allowed (15.3 ppg), third down effeciency (32.4%), sacks (189), opponent quarterback rating (73.2) and takeaways (128). In 2001, the Eagles defense allowed fewer than 21 points in each of their 16 games for just the fourth time in League history and, during Rivera's first year on the job (1999), Philadelphia led the NFL with 46 takeaways including a team record five interceptions returned for touchdowns. Rivera helped develop LB Jeremiah Trotter into a two-time Pro Bowl performer with the Eagles. Drafted in the third round (72nd overall) of the 1998 draft, Trotter was named a starter in 1999 and led the team in tackles each of the next three seasons, earning Pro Bowl honors in 2000 and 2001, before signing with the Washington Redskins as an unrestricted free agent prior to the 2002 season. During Rivera's five years overseeing the Eagles linebackers, he worked with the top tacklers on the team as each of the three starters consistently ranked in the top five on the team in tackles and as a group averaged 387 tackles per season (129 tackles per starting linebacker).

Rivera, a second-round draft choice by the Bears in 1984, played in 149 games with 62 starts (including 12 postseason contests with six starts), posting 392 tackles (190 solo), nine interceptions, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, 15 passes defended and seven quarterback sacks during his nine-year career.

Following his NFL playing career and prior to joining the coaching ranks in 1997, Rivera spent four years (1993-1996) as a television analyst covering the Bears and college football for WGN-TV and SportsChannel Chicago.

A consensus All-America selection as a linebacker at California, Rivera finished his collegiate career ranked first on the school's all-time sack list with 22 (now sixth behind Andre Carter with 31) and first in career tackles with 336 (now fourth behind David Ortego's 525). Rivera still holds the Cal record for most tackles-for-a-loss in a season with 26.5 in 1983.

The also hired Mike Bajakian as offensive quality control coach and Lloyd Lee as defensive quality control coach. Bajakian spent the last two seasons as the quarterbacks coach at Central Michigan University while Lee spent the last three seasons as a pro scout with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Prior to his time at CMU, Bajakian coached quarterbacks at the University of Michigan (2000-02) after spending six months as the quarterbacks coach at Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, Conn.). Bajakian earned his first college coaching experience at Rutgers (1998-99) as a graduate assistant in the defensive backfield under then-head coach and Bears offensive coordinator Terry Shea. Bajakian began his coaching career as an assistant at Delbarton High School in Morristown, N.J., where he was a math teacher. The River Vale, N.J., native played quarterback and was a captain at Williams College (Mass.) where he earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1996.

While at Tampa Bay, Lee assisted the pro personnel department in the recruiting and signing of NFL free agents as well as scouting and compiling reports on free agents and players on the Buccaneers roster. A native of Bloomington, Minn., Lee originally entered the NFL as a college free agent with the San Diego Chargers in 1998. Lee spent time on the Chargers roster and practice squad during the 1998 and 1999 seasons. Lee was a four-year starter at safety at Dartmouth College (1994-98), earning Division I-AA All-America honors and was an all-ECAC selection while helping lead Dartmouth to an undefeated season and Ivy League Championship in 1996.

Bear Report Top Stories