Chargers get OK to interview Rivera
By JOHN DEVINE
Herald Staff Writer
Now snow is holding Ron Rivera back.
Having been granted permission to speak to the Chargers about their sudden opening for a head coach, the Bears' defensive coordinator can't get out of Chicago.
"We've had snow for 24 hours," Rivera said. "They've issued a white-out alert. It's supposed to end at midnight. Hopefully I'll be on a plane Wednesday."
Rivera has not spoken to anyone affiliated with the Chargers. But the Bears gave San Diego the green light to interview the one-time Seaside High three-sport standout.
"I am just in a waiting mode," Rivera said. "I have not had a chance to speak to anyone with the Chargers. But it's already happened. I am a candidate."
The Chargers fired head coach Marty Schottenheimer Monday night, a month after he guided the franchise to a team record 14-2 record.
"I'm a little surprised because it happened so late," said Rivera, a former Chicago linebacker, who played on its Super Bowl title team in 1985.
Rivera is on a short list of candidates that includes 49ers offensive coordinator Norv Turner and former 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci.
Turner and Rivera were finalists for the Dallas Cowboys opening, which was filled last Thursday when they hired former Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips.
Considered one of the top young defensive coordinators in the NFL, Rivera interviewed for openings in Atlanta, Arizona, Miami and Pittsburgh during the Bears' bye week in January.
The NFL, though, prohibits teams from talking to coaching candidates while their teams are in the postseason. As a result, Rivera hasn't been able to get that elusive second interview.
"It gets frustrating," Rivera said. "Sometimes you wonder what else do you have to do. Is there something drastic I have to do? But it's good to have your name out there."
Rivera, 45, was a finalist for the Steelers job. But by the time Chicago's season ended in the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh filled its opening.
Rivera did get an extensive six-hour interview with Dallas owner Jerry Jones for their vacant head coaching job 48 hours after the Bears Super Bowl loss to Indianapolis.
Jones ultimately went with experience in Phillips.
Rivera could find himself in a similar predicament. Also rumored to be on the Chargers list are former Cowboys coaches Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcels.
"I don't know of anyone who wouldn't want this job," Rivera said. "I think it's an outstanding position. How often does a opening occur with a team that went 14-2?"
That fact that the Chargers are considered Super Bowl contenders next year only enhances the job, according to Rivera.
"It's a very distinct possibility that this team will be in the Super Bowl next year," Rivera said. "I don't think it's more pressure. They're a 14-2 team that underachieved in the playoffs."
Rivera will make it clear during his interview that changes would be minimal at best. He would not change the defense to the Tampa 3-4, which he runs in Chicago.
Over the last two years, the Bears defense has given up the least number of points in the NFC.
"When you take a job like this, you don't come in and toy with much," Rivera said. "I've got a coach in mind that could run this defense as is."
The Chargers are loaded in young talent under contact on both sides of the ball, including MVP tailback LaDainian Tomlinson, tight end Antonio Gates and quarterback Philip Rivers.
San Diego sent seven players to the Pro Bowl this past season. Among them are linebacker Shawne Merriman and former North Salinas High product and special teams standout Kassim Osgood.
"You want to find coaches that would fit," Rivera said. "I feel pretty good about the guys I have on my list. We'd make this work."
If the foul weather in the Midwest continues, it's possible Rivera would be interviewed over the phone.
"I'm not the only candidate," Rivera said. "No time has been set. I suspect sometime today they'll contact me. It's much better to interview in person."
Rivera does have a connection to Chargers owner Dean Spanos. His roommate at Cal worked with Spanos.
"I've met him a couple of times," said Rivera, who was an All-America linebacker at Cal. "I'm not sure if he remembers."
It's possible that Rivera could also be in line for the Chargers defensive coordinator position when his contract with the Bears ends on Feb. 20.
When Turner interviewed in Dallas, Rivera was believed to be on his list of coaches for their defensive coordinators job.
If Rivera were to get the job, he would find himself going up against Monterey High product and Chiefs head coach Herman Edwards twice a year in the AFC West.
The thought of returning to California and being closer to his parents in Marina is an appeal.
"My wife takes it in stride," Rivera said. "My daughter is excited about it. She kind of gets caught up in it. She's gone through two moves. She makes friends very easily."