Heads up, Eagles fans: a division rival head coach could be the next defensive play-caller in Philadelphia.

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Ron Rivera, Eagles’ LB Coach, 1999

Rivera is reportedly interviewing for the Eagles’ defensive coordinator vacancy per Jeremy Fowler (ESPN), news which prompted mixed reactions. “Riverboat” Ron most recently served as the Washington Commanders head coach, going 26-40-1 over four seasons. Prior to his tenure in D.C., Rivera was the Panthers’ head coach, the Chargers’ DC, and the Bears’ DC.

That is, after he got his start in Philadelphia.

That’s right — Rivera was hired by none other than Andy Reid in 1999 to be the Eagles’ linebackers coach, overseeing the development of Jeremiah Trotter. You might expect such a familiar face would be welcomed back to the City of Brotherly Love, but Twitter had other thoughts:

News of Rivera’s potential interview spurred positive reactions from Ike Reese and another choice few, but the ferocity of Philadelphia’s collective cringe is still sending ripples down Broad Street. Sure, he is a division rival, but hiring Ron Rivera would be a fantastic decision by the Eagles’ front office.

RECORD

No, not wins and losses — TRACK record. If Ron Rivera is hired as Nick Sirianni’s defensive coordinator, he will bring 24 years of defensive coaching experience. Sirianni couldn’t VOTE when Rivera got his start with Reid’s linebacker crew. At a time when Philadelphia is reeling from the aches and pains of firing two young coordinators who were ill-prepared for the job, this type of experience would be invaluable.

Not only that, but Rivera has proven an ability to consistently develop outstanding defenses. As Fowler noted, Ron Rivera’s 2010 Chargers ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total defense, giving up just 18 passing touchdowns relative to 16 interceptions. In 2006 he authored the Chicago Bears’ suffocating defense en route to a Super Bowl appearance, once again allowing just 18 passing touchdowns but picking off his opponents a whopping 24 times.

Over 19 seasons and four different franchises, he has produced TEN Top-10 defenses in yards allowed — over 50% of the time. He has been to the Super Bowl twice as a coach, once as a player. He is the definition of consistency as a defensive mind.

ADVERSITY:

Ron Rivera on Dan Snyder's reported agreement to sell Commanders: 'Like a  load was lifted'
via AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Critics will point at Ron Rivera’s tenure with Washington and the last half of his time in Carolina to dismiss optimism around a potential hire. And while these seasons were ugly, the circumstances of these years cannot be overlooked.

In Washington’s case, Rivera was working under the horrid leadership of former owner Dan Snyder for three of four seasons. To call Snyder a distraction would be a massive understatement: the infamous owner oversaw an era slandered by sexual misconduct, racism, and tumult. The team went through three names, eight quarterbacks, and countless investigations while Rivera was head coach, a scenario that could hardly lead to on-field success.

While Washington dealt with its internal misgivings, Rivera was diagnosed with cancer in his first summer with the team. The coach missed just three practices and coached the team to a 2020 NFC East division title (cue tepid boos). On top of his personal battle, Rivera never saw his No. 1 overall draft pick Chase Young play an entire season before he was traded to San Francisco this season. On a team where nothing went right, how can a coach be expected to produce elite defensive production?

FIT:

Ron Rivera checks every box for Nick Sirianni:

✅ Extensive experience

✅ Won’t be poached for HC gig

✅ Familiar with the team

Report: Eagles to interview Ron Rivera and Mike Caldwell for defensive  coordinator
via David Maialetti, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Ron Rivera’s 24 years of coaching in the NFL speak for themselves. Both Brian Johnson and Sean Desai were new to the job of coordinator, a massive step in responsibility. While most young coordinators are given some time to develop, the Eagles’ win-now mentality and present Super Bowl window demanded immediate results — something neither could provide. Ron Rivera can overhaul a defense overnight with his bevy of experience. And frankly, Sirianni could use that kind of experience and character in the room.

The same goes for his outlook in the future: the Eagles want to avoid falling into a cycle of hiring competent coordinators who get hired elsewhere after one good season (Frank Reich for Doug Pederson, Shane Steichen for Nick Sirianni). If Sirianni is as uninvolved in play-by-play as he seems and coordinators in Philadelphia will always be calling plays, Rivera would be a sage presence to have at the helm.

Best of all, he’s an Eagle. He worked for the team in the past, developing Jeremiah Trotter into the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker he was. And per Zach Berman, Jeffrey Lurie is fond of Rivera, saying this about him in 2020: “He’s a family member of ours. Stephanie and my wife play golf together, and Ron is somebody I really respect… He’s a high-quality person in every sense of the word…”

Not only is he familiar with the team, he is particularly familiar with its weaknesses: linebackers and the secondary. If you watched any of the last 7 games of the season, you are probably pretty mad about our pass defense. Get this: As a defensive coordinator or a head coach, Ron Rivera produced Top-5 defenses in net yards per pass attempt 6 times in 19 seasons. The Eagles can address struggles in the defensive unit by hiring the man who specializes in the matter.

He doesn’t have the job yet, but don’t hang your head at the prospect — Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera has a nicer ring to it than you may realize.


Photo: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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