Opportunity Knocks

MINNEAPOLIS - Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera will be one of the candidates mentioned for head-coach openings around the NFL in the off-season, possibly for the vacant Vikings job, which he was asked about following the game but before Mike Tice's firing has been announced.

"I'll cross that bridge when I get there," Rivera said. "They did a tremendous job based on what happened to them early in the year (a 1-4 start), and I thought they bounced back pretty good."

This is Rivera's second year as the Bears' defensive coordinator, he spent five years as the Eagles' linebackers coach and two years as a Bears defensive quality control coach following his nine-year playing career as a linebacker in Chicago. Rivera said he's ready to take the next step up the coaching ladder.

"The last couple years have been a great growing experience for me," he said. "I'm in a situation right now where I think I've matured as a coach and most certainly would look forward to an opportunity."

While some high-profile candidates are able to pick and choose their jobs, Rivera sounds as if he's not as concerned with the situation as much as the position.

"A job's a job," he said. "So if something like that were to come up, I most certainly would look at it because that is my ultimate goal."

Lovie Smith knows what it takes to work up the coaching ladder to become a head coach. While it would leave a big hole to fill on his staff, Smith said would he would be disappointed if Rivera weren't considered for a head coaching position.

"He's done an outstanding job, he's a great football coach and he deserves his shot running his own team someday," Smith said.

Because the Bears have an off week before they host a divisional-round playoff game the weekend of Jan. 14-15, prospective employers can contact Rivera this week. He was asked if he expected that to happen.

"I honestly don't know," Rivera said. "It would be nice, but my main focus and objective right now is that we are in the playoffs and preparing for that."

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