After the 2010 season, in the which the San Diego Chargers were ranked 1st in yards gained and 1st in least yards allowed while missing the playoffs with historically bad special teams play, Ron Rivera was a hot Head Coaching candidate. It wasn't the first time, either.
Rivera was the Defensive Coordinator for the Chicago Bears in 2006, and his defense carried the offense (kicking and screaming) to the Super Bowl where they lost to Peyton Manning, Bob Sanders and the rest of the Indianapolis Colts. Ron was a young (44) minority (Mexican and Puerto Rican) candidate that was having Championship-caliber success. The interviews were endless.
In one of the strangest career twists I've ever seen, Rivera came to San Diego to interview for the Head Coach position left open by the firing of Marty Schottenheimer. Rivera left with a new job, Linebackers Coach (a demotion from Defensive Coordinator) with the Chargers. There's plenty of rumors and theories about why this happened, but those don't really matter. It happened, let's move on.
Rivera coached under newly-hired Ted Cottrell, who was an awful Defensive Coordinator. It took a little over a year before Cottrell was fired and replaced with Rivera, and the defense got incrementally better after the switch. By time 2010 rolled around, most Chargers fans were already done with Norv Turner (and Nate Kaeding). The 13-3 season in 2009 had meant nothing because of a single playoff loss.
As the 2010 season rolled along, Rivera was the only coach escaping the wrath of the fans. "Fire Steve Crosby. Fire Norv Turner. Fire Clarence Shelmon and A.J. Smith too, but don't you date fire Ron Rivera. In fact, make Ron Rivera Head Coach." Yeah, that's what the people wanted. Rivera is an ex-NFL player, a member of the famous 1985 Chicago Bears defense, and in his first game as Chargers Defensive Coordinator the cameras caught him chewing out his players on the sidelines. This meant he was tough and demanded respect. This meant he would make a great Head Coach, right?
Well, along with the whispers of Rivera taking the LB Coach job in 2006 were rumors that nobody thought Rivera had what it took to be a Head Coach. Carolina threw caution to the wind after what seemed like a good season for Rivera's defense in 2010, and they signed him to be their Head Coach. He brought along with him everyone's favorite Offensive Assistant Coach, the man that many thought was the genius behind Norv Turner's success in San Diego, Rob Chudzinski.
Obviously, the Panthers were smarter than the Chargers. They grabbed the only two coaches that the fans thought were worth a damn and left the rest. Surely, San Diego was doomed and the Panthers were on a path to great success. Well, um, no. That hasn't happened.
Rivera and Chud have managed a 10-19 record (.345 winning %) in less than two seasons in Carolina. Both are expected to be fired at the end of this season, and the general thought is that the franchise is worse off now than it was when it fired John Fox after the 2010 season. Rivera has been relentlessly, and justifiably, ridiculed for his terrible in-game decision making and his poor locker room management. Chances are, something similar would've happened had Rivera and Chud been given the keys to the broken down sports car that is the San Diego Chargers roster.