Rivera joins the Chargers as linebackers coach

Updated: February 20, 2007, 9:54 AM ET
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera may have lost out to Norv Turner for the chance to be San Diego's head coach, but the Chargers got the best of all worlds.

Rivera accepted a two-year contract to help coach San Diego's linebackers just hours after learning his contract would not be extended by the Bears. For the Chargers, general manager A.J. Smith and Turner, it was a major coup in trying to move closer to a championship run.

"This is big," Turner told the Chargers Web site, hours after accepting his own job with San Diego. "Ron's qualifications speak for themselves. He has a wide range of experience with a variety of defenses as both a player and a coach. He's coming from a team fresh off a Super Bowl season and whose defense over the past two years has been as good as any in the league."

After what was considered an excellent interview for the head coaching job, Rivera told the Chargers and Turner he was willing to discuss a position on the staff. Turner hired Ted Cottrell as the defensive coordinator, but Rivera was an object of private discussions all day.

For Rivera, the idea of joining the Chargers was another way to improve his stock for a future head coaching job. Rivera was defensive coordinator of a Super Bowl team, but he was pigeonholed in some ways. He was considered a 4-3 defensive specialist and so many of the openings this year wanted coaches with 3-4 experience.

The Chargers liked the idea of bringing in Rivera to help improve their third-and-long package along with coaching the linebackers. Coming from a 4-3 scheme, Rivera can offer suggestions to improve the third-down pass rush. Most 3-4 teams go to a four-man line in third-and-long situations.

Plus, Rivera could enhance his resume this season by learning the 3-4. He's had eight interviews for head coaching jobs but has not been able to secure one. Getting the 3-4 experience might be the edge he needs to get a 2008 head coaching job in what is expected to be a wide-open market.

"He'll bring an entirely new dimension to the defensive staff," Turner told Chargers.com. "Ron will be an outstanding addition to our staff."

Rivera will work with John Pagano, a linebackers coach who is currently under contract and expected to stay. The Chargers like having two linebacker coaches. Earliers this month they lost linebacker coach Greg Manusky, who joined the San Francisco 49ers as the defensive coordinator.

In getting Rivera, the Chargers believe they put a cap on what was an important day in getting ready for the 2007 season.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

ALSO SEE