"That guy. Fire him too." (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The rumor are swirling, or perhaps the rumor mill is spinning, and San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera seems to be the early favorite to land the vacant Head Coach position with the Carolina Panthers (who have the #1 overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft). Here's what that means for Chargers fans....
1. A New Defensive Coordinator
Any time a team switches coordinators there's a chance for significant movement up or down. With Ron Rivera's ragtag bunch coming off a season in which they were a top 5 defense all season, it's far more likely the movement will be down or at least lateral rather than up.
The first name that comes to mind for a replacementis John Pagano, current Chargers Linebackers Coach and somebody that Kevin Acee (among others) have tabbed as a future Defensive Coordinator for a while now. He's an unproven commodity, but it would be an easy transition from Rivera to him. However, I have a bigger/better idea.....
Rob Ryan. Would he come to San Diego? Who the hell knows, but these days it's not uncommon for a coach to be hired as a Coordinator/Head Coach-in-Waiting. He is somebody that has had great success in the AFC West, and he would certainly be able to run the defense his own way. The added caveat, as I just hinted at, is that he could be hired with a handshake agreement that he's the next Head Coach. Depending on if he thinks Norv is on solid ground or not, it could be a fantastic opportunity to walk into his first Head Coaching gig with a very talented team (and QB).
Now, Ryan could end up being a HC in 2011. He spent 2010 making the Browns a respectable defense with nothing more than a good, rookie CB some scraps. However, knowing Mike Holmgren (an offensive guy who needs an offensive-minded coach), Rob probably will not land there. The other two spots where Ryan appears to be a candidate are Carolina Panthers (where he obviously won't land if Rivera gets the gig) and the Oakland Raiders (where he has history, but Al Davis almost never hires defensive coaches).
To me, this seems like a win-win. Rob can become one of, if not the, highest paid Defensive Coordinators in the league while becoming the successor to one of the better jobs in the league. A.J. Smith gets to light a fire under Norv Turner's ass, and Norv Turner gets a proven 3-4 Defensive Coordinator to keep his team in games. It's probably a long shot, but I love the idea of it.
2. He Won't Go Alone
Remember before the 2009 season, when Ron Rivera essentially fired the defensive staff he inherited from Ted Cottrell and then brought in his old staff from his days with the Chicago Bears? Guys like Don Johnson (Defensive Line Coach) and Steve Wilks (Secondary Coach) have been vital to the success of the Chargers over the last two seasons, and I'm willing to bet they'll be heading anywhere Rivera goes. This is why the Rob Ryan hire makes more sense, to me, than the Pagano promotion. Pagano would have to promote a bunch of guys with him, while Ryan would most likely bring a few of his guys over to San Diego from Cleveland.
On that same note, Ron Rivera is going to need somebody to run the offense. Rumors have him taking John Ramsdell (QB Coach) or Rob Chudzinski (TE Coach, Asst. Head Coach and former OC of Cleveland Browns) along with him for that. So again, the Chargers are left in a position where they most likely would be promoting from within and praying that the new guys are at least as good as the guys they're replacing.
3. Massive Turnover
I'm not going to say "The window of opportunity is closing!", but this is the offseason Charger fans have been dreading for some time. Massive turnover cannot be avoided. Here's a list of all of the possible changes:
- Special Teams Coach
- Defensive Coordinator/Staff
- Assistant Head Coach/TE Coach
- QB Coach
- #1 WR
- 3rd down RB/Kick Returner
- Right Tackle
- OLB opposite Shaun Phillips
- ILBs, both of them.
- Strong Safety