I'm going to go on interpretation in the Ron Rivera/Lovie Smith
situation, as Rivera discussed it yesterday.
I take Rivera at face value on the ideal of there being no hard
feelings. What would be good to know, of course, is how Rivera feels
about the average coaching relationship in general.
Nonetheless, the end result is that Smith erred in letting Rivera go.
Did he want Rod Marinelli when he first put together his staff?
Absolutely. And he didn't get him at the time. Rivera was highly
recommended, and he worked out. You can't ask for much better than two
top 3 defenses and a Super Bowl run. But, philosophically, Rivera
didn't fit as well.
You can see in what Ron Rivera defense do, at least when they're
working well, that sitting in cover 2 and being passive isn't what he's
used to. Not in Philly, not in San Diego, and not here. Some of my
memories of the worst defenses in 2011-12 were late game prevent
defenses (including some horrors against Atlanta and Chicago).
He made it work in Chicago, and he didn't deserve to be let go - it's
not that he was fired, he just wasn't offered a new contract, but all of
that's from your viewpoint. When a team chooses not to have you work
there anymore, I don't imagine that's a great feeling. Rivera bounced
back, as you might imagine he would, and built things his way.
Bob Babich did fit, and he replaced Rivera, but those were the worst
defenses of the Smith era. They bounced back a bit with big spending
(Julius Peppers, for instance) and Marinelli, who took Detroit to 0-16
just prior, righted the ship somewhat. Not as good as Rivera. Babich,
per the Chicago Tribune, was Rivera's first choice at LB coach (or, at
least, he tried to hire him), so there's no hard feelings there, either.
His son, Bobby, got his start here as a defensive assistant (though you
never saw him on the coaching roster), and was assistant DBs coach in
Cleveland last year. I'd be willing to suggest he'd join this staff in
a similar role if he doesn't catch on anywhere else.
I guess you could say that Rivera's inability to say no to potential
opportunity (at the time, 8 interviews, many of them apparently Rooney
Rule interviews) was a distraction. Rivera probably didn't do himself
favors accepting every single request. It's difficult territory,
however, to say you know a team's intentions or to not want to succeed
at any opportunity. Still it becomes about you in a negative (they
didn't hire him) instead of positive (every team theoretically wanted me
as their coach enough to talk to me) way, and perception can be reality.
Just ask Dave Gettleman, who can relate. He was passed over, but
hopefully this was the right opportunity for him, and for Carolina.
And ask Steve Wilks, a guy who stands to have a strong future in the
league, who was fired by Smith a couple of years later. Immediately
snapped up by Rivera in San Diego, Wilks' secondary was the difference
in the #1 defense there. It was the only coaching move he had a say in
(Rivera took over for Ted Cottrell, who was more or less forced on Norv
Turner, so he had no say in his other coaches). Wilks, not
coincidentally, has been the most critical position coach on a Panthers
secondary that lacks talent but has been a big part of this year's #2
defense. He was around for the Bears' Super Bowl run. He'd be our
next defensive coordinator, and was apparently Rivera's first choice.
So it seems a matter of circumstance as much as anything. Rivera was
in the right place at the right time, and then he wasn't. In the end,
it worked out for him.