Did Ron Rivera Play in the NFL?

Ron Rivera has become one of the most well-respected coaches in the NFL. He had a remarkable tenure as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, and he is now trying to help turn the Washing Football Team around. However, many coaches have at least a little bit of playing experience. So, did Ron Rivera play in the NFL?

Ron Rivera’s assistant coaching career

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Ron Rivera was a successful football coach well before he became a head coach. Rivera was the defensive quality control coach for the Chicago Bears in 1997 and 1998 before moving to the Philadelphia Eagles in 1999. From 1999 through 2003, Rivera was then the linebackers coach in Philadelphia before returning to the Bears in 2004.

Rivera was the defensive coordinator for the Bears from 2004 through 2006, and he had a lot of success in that position. During his second season in that role in 2005, the Bears were No. 1 in the NFL in points allowed per game. They went 11-5 as a team that year, too, but ended up losing in the Divisional Round to the Carolina Panthers.

The Bears were then No. 3 in the NFL in points allowed per game in 2006, and it paid off in a big way. They went 13-3 and reached the Super Bowl before losing to the Indianapolis Colts.

Rivera was then the linebackers coach for the San Diego Chargers in 2007 before becoming the defensive coordinator there in 2008 and staying in that role through 2010. The Chargers had a top 10 defense in terms of points allowed per game in 2010, too.

He has had a successful career as a head coach

Ron Rivera has become one of the most well-respected coaches in the NFL. So, did he play in the NFL before becoming a coach?
Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team during the second day of the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine on Feb. 26, 2020. | Alika Jenner/Getty Images

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Ron Rivera became the head coach of the Carolina Panthers in 2011. After they went 6-10 in 2011, and then 7-9 in 2012, the Panthers were one of the best teams in the NFL in 2013. They went 12-4 and reached the Divisional Round. Rivera also ultimately won the AP Coach of the Year award that season. The playoff trip was the first of three straight playoff appearances and four in five seasons for Rivera and the Panthers.

The 2015 season, though, was Rivera’s best year as a head coach. He won his second AP Coach of the Year award, and the Panthers went 15-1 overall. His quarterback, Cam Newton, ended up winning MVP that season and took the Panthers to the Super Bowl. Rivera lost to a Peyton Manning-led team yet again, though, as the Denver Broncos won the title that year.

After going 11-5 and reaching the playoffs in 2017, the Panthers went 7-9 in 2018. Carolina then started the year 5-7 in 2019, which led to them firing Rivera after Week 13.

Rivera has since become the head coach of the Washington Football Team, who went 3-13 the year before hiring him.

Ron Rivera played in the NFL for the Chicago Bears

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The Chicago Bears drafted Rivera in the second round of the 1984 NFL draft. During the years that he played in Chicago, the Bears’ defense was one of the top defensive units of all-time. This led to him waiting 44 games to finally make his first start. Rivera led the team in tackles in that start, too, and was the NFC Defensive Player of the Week, according to the Chicago Tribune.

He eventually became a key player for the Bears in his career, as he ended up starting in 56 games for Chicago. Rivera ultimately recorded 190 solo tackles for the Bears, nine interceptions, five forced fumbles, and seven sacks, according to the Chicago Tribune. He also won a Super Bowl with the Bears in 1985. Rivera ultimately retired in 1993.

So, was Rivera a Hall of Fame linebacker? No, but he was still a good one. Now, he is working on becoming a Hall of Fame coach.

Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference