Chicago Bears: Ron Rivera
The Charlotte Observer first reported the news.
Currently under contract with Chicago, which previously told assistants from Lovie Smith's staff they couldn't pursue other opportunities around the NFL, Toub was allowed to interview with Carolina because the Panthers asked and received permission from the Bears, according to multiple sources.
Toub has a history with Rivera, as the two worked together on Smith's staff from 2004-06.
A member of the Bears coaching staff since 2004, Toub has directed the Bears to finishes in the top third of the league in special-teams rankings done by the Dallas Morning News for a ninth consecutive year.
Under Toub, Bears special teamers have received eight Pro Bowl nods, and in 2007 he became the first special teams coach in team history to send multiple players to the Pro Bowl in consecutive seasons. In 2006, Toub's unit resulted in three Pro Bowl nods, which marked the first time in team history that occurred.
In reviewing tape for Carolina's upcoming matchup with the Bears, Rivera -- who played nine years for the club, winning a Super Bowl in 1985 -- said he's been entertained by the way the defense has performed against common opponents.
"It's an exciting bunch to watch," Rivera said. "As you watch these guys, you watch a team that is very opportunistic. They go out and attack the ball, and they get the football. Almost reminiscent of 2006, I think this group could be better. I really do."
"The things they do and the way they play is outstanding. I think it all starts with the two linebackers (Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs) and Charles Tillman, three guys who have been around a long time that understand how to play that way," Rivera said. "In fact, throw Israel Idonije in that mix as well. They've been doing it a long time. And the rest of the guys pick up off their lead."
"We know that Ron and the rest of the staff is an excellent coaching staff with a lot of good players," Smith said. "And yet you go through some times like this. You just keep working on what you believe in, which Ron and their crew will do. We just hope they don't get it right this week. They'll be fine in time."
When ownership fired Hurney earlier in the week, Rivera indicated the move sent a message to him and the Carolina staff that nobody is on solid footing with regards to job security. Rivera considers the team's last 10 games to be an evaluation process of him, the coaching staff and players.
Hurney hired Rivera in 2011, and the Panthers have since won seven games under the coach who is in the second year of a four-year deal. After winning four of its last six games in Rivera's first season, Carolina entered 2012 with lofty expectations only to see the team descend into its current four-game skid.
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:
Speed rushers: Two weeks ago, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Tamba Hali put four hits on Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. Last week, Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen sacked him three times while fellow defensive end Brian Robison brought him down twice. Hali and Allen are two of the NFL's best pass rushers. Sunday, the Lions will face the best. No NFL player has more sacks this season (5.0) or over the past three seasons (51.5) than the Dallas Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware. Stafford has had success getting the ball downfield despite facing those elite rushers. But the Lions probably don't want to find out how much damage Ware can do. They would be well-advised to devote more attention to him than Hali and Allen saw. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is one of the NFL's top blockers at his position. The Lions might need to utilize him in that regard Sunday.
"Statement game:" I personally hate that phrase and think it's mostly irrelevant in the world of the NFL. With that said, I think the Lions have their best opportunity yet to demonstrate how far they've come and to set their fan base into a frenzy heading into their Oct. 10 prime-time game against the Chicago Bears. The Cowboys are 2-1 and have designs on the NFC East title. The Lions, meanwhile, have won in Dallas only twice in their history. Last season, the Bears began walking with a little extra pep in their step after winning at Cowboys Stadium. The Lions could do the same. A win would give the Lions their eighth consecutive regular-season victory, dating to last season. That would be their longest winning streak since taking nine consecutive games from 1953-54.
Run to daylight: The Carolina Panthers are giving up an average of 117 yards rushing per game this season, the seventh-worst mark in the NFL. As we've discussed a few times, the Bears haven't paid enough attention to their running game this season. That has to stop Sunday. We can spend all the time we want discussing the return of Panthers coach Ron Rivera and tight end Greg Olsen. I'm sure they’re both pumped for this game. But the Bears can control it if offensive coordinator Mike Martz can find a way get the running game going. The Panthers should be vulnerable in that area.
Someone will win: The 0-3 Minnesota Vikings will play at the 0-3 Kansas City Chiefs. Something has got to give, right? A matchup of two winless teams after at least three weeks is relatively rare; it's happened six times in the past 10 years of NFL play. The Vikings haven't given up on their playoff hopes quite yet. After all, three teams have advanced to the postseason over the past 21 seasons after starting 0-3. But if the Vikings fall to 0-4 on Sunday, the most interesting question remaining in their season will be when rookie quarterback Christian Ponder will get on the field. When they acquired starter Donovan McNabb this summer, I don't think the Vikings believed they would be facing a Ponder Watch so early in the season.
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Rivera said he harbored no ill will after being assured by Bears head coach Lovie Smith that the move in February, 2007 was not based on personal feelings, but just the same, as Rivera returns to the city where he was drafted and spent 17 years as player and coach, the significance was impossible to hide.
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The former Bears defensive coordinator and current Carolina head coach inherits a team fresh off a 2-14 season. Barring a trade, the Panthers will select No. 1 overall in the upcoming draft, and without a proven quarterback on the roster, there is speculation Carolina could draft Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.
"As far as skill set goes, the young man has tremendous physical talents," Rivera said Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium. "He's got natural size, the ability to run, a tremendous arm, and a pretty good pocket presence already. He's well on his way, but again, we've got to go through that process. We're going to be at his workout, we'll bring him in obviously and visit with him and go through that whole process to get a feel for what he already knows and how well he'll learn."
Many consider the first pick a curse, considering all the guaranteed money (in the old CBA) and expectations that accompany every player selected No. 1. Because so much is at stake, Rivera vows the Panthers will look closely at players' backgrounds.
Newton and Auburn were the subjects of an NCAA investigation last year over allegations Newton's father tried to solicit money from Mississippi State during his son's recruitment.
"The process will be very extensive," Rivera said. "We will go through it, explore every avenue and we also keep an open mind to the fact that a lot of the things these guys do, they do when they're 18 years old. To judge people, without realizing they've grown, would be unfair. We're going to try and keep an open mind with everybody we do this process with.
"There are eight to ten young guys right now [we're looking at]. By the time we get done, that number may dwindle down or stay up there. But we will go through the process."
The two men were teammates from 1984-89, and Rivera started at strong side linebacker during Duerson's final two years with the Bears -- 1988-89.
"That was a very sad situation," Rivera said at Lucas Oil Stadium. "It's the 25th anniversary [of the Bears Super Bowl XX victory], Richard Dent is getting into the Hall of Fame and this coming weekend we're going to celebrate the life of another one [of our teammates during Duerson's funeral]. It's a very sad situation. Sad for all of his former teammates, friends and family. It most certainly did hit home a little bit. He'll be greatly missed."
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Perrenial Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs even referenced Rivera, who was Lovie Smith's defense coordinator from 2004-06, last December while attempting to explain why the Bears have missed the playoffs for three consecutive seasons.
"You think about a Ron Rivera, you think about a lot of these guys that were here," Briggs said at the time.
Nick Roach wasn't with the Bears in 2006, but the former undrafted free agent out of Northwestern crossed paths with Rivera while on San Diego's practice squad in 2007. Upon initially joining the Chargers' staff, Rivera coached inside linebackers, the position Roach played in San Diego's 3-4 defense.
"I took a lot from him because he was my first NFL position coach," Roach said Thursday. "I still remember those time because it was my first real experience. He was a really positive guy to be around. Everybody that played for Ron, loved to play for him because he was so positive and really didn't come down hard on guys, when it wasn't necessary."
Rivera's ability to relate the players stems from his credibility factor in the meeting room, according to Roach. It's not imperative that an NFL coach be a former player, but sometimes it helps.
"He was intense and guys really respected him so he didn't really have to flex his power," Roach said.
But when somebody like Rivera does flex his power, players generally tend to listen.
- Although San Diego was bounced at home by the Jets -- after a bye -- Ron Rivera's defense performed admirably. The Chargers lost this game because of turnovers, dumb penalties and missed field goals. The only really bad defensive breakdown came on the Shonn Greene 53-yard touchdown run, where a combination of shoddy tackling and poor gap discipline led to the score. There's no telling if Rivera will now officially interview with Buffalo (would he be in the mix for the Raiders?), but in my opinion he did nothing Sunday to hurt his stock around the league.
- Speaking of Greene, is anybody else interested in seeing if Thomas Jones will be cut loose by the New York Jets this offseason? It's tough to say what kind of relationship Jones has with the people upstairs at Halas Hall, but in the locker room, he still commands the respect of his peers. How much better would the Bears be in 2010 with a backfield consisting of Jones and Matt Forte.
- Isn't it amazing ex-Bears defensive linemen Ian Scott, Alfonso Boone and Antonio Garay all played meaningful snaps in an AFC division playoff game?
- Every team in the NFC North has at least one dominant receiver -- except the Bears. After watching Minnesota's Sidney Rice this year, I think it's fair to wonder if he's better than Detroit's Calvin Johnson and Green Bay's Greg Jennings. Man, I'd kill for Bernard Berrian, and he's now the fourth or fifth weapon in the Minnesota Vikings offense.
Outside of those collecting a paycheck at Halas Hall, it's impossible for anybody to make a convincing argument that this regime stay past 2009. The Chicago Bears are getting worse, not better, and help does not appear to be on the way.
That being said, would the Bears seriously consider hiring a Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher or a Mike Holmgren-type?
Those high-powered individuals want control of the roster, and because the Bears have a general manager under contract for several more years, why would any of these big-name coaches come to Chicago?
Nothing is impossible, but the idea of Jerry Angelo stepping aside seems unrealistic. Again, not impossible. Just unrealistic.
So if the Bears do making a head-coaching change (sorry, but after the Ravens game, I don't feel bad speculating), who else is out there? Here are three names that make sense.
1. Russ Grimm: Don't be fooled by Grimm mispronouncing the McCaskey's name during his interview in 2004; this guy knows how to coach. A four-time Pro Bowl guard for the Washington Redskins, Grimm was part of three Super Bowl championship teams. He has coached under Joe Gibbs, Cowher and Ken Whisenhunt, and is the perfect person to try to fix the Bears' offensive line. Grimm thought he was going to get the Pittsburgh Steelers job when Cowher retired, but of course, that went to Mike Tomlin.
2. Mike Heimerdinger: He knows Jay Cutler well, having worked extensively with the Bears quarterback while in Denver. That's a huge plus. Heimerdinger is the Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator, also holding the same position for Tennessee from 2000-2004, while also spending one season running the New York Jets' offense in 2005. Heimerdinger played his college football at Eastern Illinois, and originally hails from DeKalb.
3. Ron Rivera: This would be ironic on so many levels, but let's not focus the obvious Rivera-replacing-the-guy-who-fired-him storyline. Instead, concentrate on Rivera being a former player (which earns a coach a lot of respect in the locker room), his familiarity with a good chunk of the roster, and knowledge of three core defenses. Rivera learned the 4-3 under Jim Johnson, the cover-2 under Lovie Smith (don't laugh) and now is running a 3-4 out in San Diego. Plus, if you're not doing your job, Rivera will let you know about it. His hire would bring a tremendous amount of positive buzz to the franchise. And remember, Smith decided not to retain Rivera, not Angelo.
This is by no means a complete list of potential candidates, just three that sound plausible. Feel free to poke holes in any of the guys I listed. We still need to point out it's not a slam dunk Smith is gone, but after Sunday, that possibility seems as real as ever.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It's amazing how often paths cross in the NFL. A perfect example is St. Louis head coach Steve Spagnuolo, who has multiple ties to current and former Bears coaches and players.
"We came in and assessed everything," Spagnuolo said during a conference call with Chicago media members. "A lot goes into those kind of decisions. I have a great deal of respect for both those players, and I was fortune enough to work a little bit with Pisa, who I have a great amount of respect for. You just come in, make your decisions, and hope you are right. We've moved forward, and I know they have, too. I wish those two guys a lot of luck."
Before rising to prominence as the Giants defensive coordinator in 2007-08, Spagnuolo spent eight seasons in Philadelphia, where he worked alongside former Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.
"I think he's terrific," Spagnuolo said. "He's a terrific football coach, and his time will come (to be an NFL head coach). In this league, it's a timing thing. It'll happen for Ron, too."
Spagnuolo also has strong relationships with several current assistants, attending Springfield (Mass.) College with offensive line coach Harry Hiestand, director of physical development Rusty Jones and special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Strangely, there is no mention of Springfield College in Toub's bio in the Bears media guide.
"He claims UTEP, but I was with him for two years there (Springfield)," Spagnuolo joked.
Of course, Spagnuolo also worked with Toub in Philadelphia, as well as Bears fullback Jason McKie.
It was fun to hear Spagnuolo go down memory lane. It certainly beats talking about the 1-10 Rams.