Chargers hire Ron Rivera to coach linebackers

San Diego Chargers Head Coach Norv Turner has tabbed former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera to coach linebackers, the team announced today. Rivera, who was one of six candidates to interview for the Chargers' head coaching job, has agreed to a two-year contract.

"This is big," said Turner. "Ron's qualifications speak for themselves. He has a wide range of experience with a variety of defenses as both a player and a coach. And he's coming from a team fresh off a Super Bowl season and whose defense over the past two years has been as good as any in the league. He'll bring an entirely new dimension to the defensive staff. Ron is an outstanding addition to our staff."

For the last three years, Rivera has overseen one of the NFL's top defenses. Chicago won back-to-back NFC North titles and earned a berth in Super Bowl XLI, thanks in large part to an attacking defense that led the NFL with 44 takeaways in 2006. The Bears finished fifth in the league in total defense and third in scoring defense last season. In 2005, Chicago ranked second in the NFL in total defense and finished sixth in takeaways.

The list of Bears defensive players that have produced Pro Bowl seasons under Rivera include linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, safety Mike Brown, cornerback Nathan Vasher and defensive tackle Tommie Harris.

Rivera's background includes several defensive systems. The Bears excelled in the "Tampa 2," a scheme that relies heavily on zone coverages and little man-to-man. Rivera is also familiar with attacking defenses. Prior to joining Lovie Smith's staff in Chicago, Rivera spent five seasons as Philadelphia's linebackers coach, where he worked under Jim Johnson, one of the most aggressive defensive coordinators in the NFL. The Eagles advanced to the NFC Championship Game in each of Rivera's final three seasons in Philly.

During his tenure with the Eagles, the team finished second in the NFL in scoring defense twice. In 2001, Philadelphia held all 16 of its opponents to less than 21 points. They're one of only four teams in NFL history that can make such a claim. Rivera also played a key role in the development of linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, a two-time Pro Bowl selection.

During Rivera's playing career, he was coached by the innovative Buddy Ryan, the architect of the "46 Defense" which involved blitzing on nearly every down. Rivera also is a former Bears linebacker and won a Super Bowl championship with Chicago in 1985.

Following his NFL playing career and prior to joining the coaching ranks in 1997, Rivera spent four years (1993-96) as a television analyst covering the Bears and college football for WGN-TV and SportsChannel Chicago. He joined the Bears as the team's first defensive quality control coach in 1997.

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