Ron Rivera‘s path to the Panthers emerged when he and Lovie Smith ended a contentious relationship in three seasons working together in Chicago. The former Bears coach didn’t renew the former Bears defensive coordinator’s contract after the duo helped the Bears to Super Bowl XLI during the 2006 season, largely due to philosophical and personal differences, Austin Murphy of SI.com reports.
Smith preferred then-Buccaneers assistant head coach Rod Marinelli for the job upon being hired as Bears coach in 2004, but, per Murphy, Rivera was mandated by then-Chicago GM Jerry Angelo.
The former Bears player under blitz-happy Buddy Ryan, Rivera wanted a blitz-heavy scheme, whereas Smith was a Tampa-2 proponent. Murphy also asserts Rivera’s eight interviews for head-coaching positions while employed as Bears DC were potentially seen as disloyal by Smith.
When Rivera became the Chargers’ linebackers coach in 2007 after Smith denied him a fourth season running the Bears’ defense, he and Smith were on bad terms, a Bears source told Murphy. The 54-year-old Rivera served three years as San Diego’s DC before accepting Carolina’s top coaching job.
Here are some more items from the NFC North on the eve of Super Bowl 50.
- The Bears should let Matt Forte walk while re-signing Alshon Jeffery and Zach Miller, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap notes in his analysis of the Bears’ cap situation. Also advising the Bears to orchestrate an extension with Kyle Long after they pick up the tackle’s fifth-year option, Fitzgerald recommends the Bears cut Martellus Bennett and gauge Lamarr Houston‘s trade value. Bennett would save Chicago $5.2MM, and Houston, entering his seventh season, will net the Bears $4MM in cap savings if released. Brought in to play in a 4-3 scheme, Houston graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 62-ranked edge defender as an outside linebacker in Vic Fangio‘s 3-4.
- Calvin Johnson‘s impromptu retirement could be a negotiating ploy a la Adrian Peterson‘s trade request last year, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes. The Lions will need to know Johnson’s official intentions on his future by March 9, when his $16MM base salary and $24MM cap number are configured into Detroit’s 2016 salary cap. Florio speculates Johnson could have threatened to retire to force the Lions to appreciate his presence rather than insist he renegotiate that massive cap figure. Peterson ended up receiving additional guaranteed money, instead of the Vikings potentially attempting at reducing his salary, Florio offers.
- Randall Cobb‘s punctured lung sustained against the Cardinals could have been an effect of him being mic’d up by NFL Films, the slot receiver and the Packers medical staff theorize (via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). “I punctured a lung. I didn’t break a rib and I didn’t fracture a rib. It’s really abnormal for that to happen,” Cobb told radio host Bill Michaels in San Francisco. “But I was mic’d up for the game. I landed flush on my back. The battery pack was on my shoulder pads and I landed flush on my back and we think that possibly could be it but there’s no way of proving it.” Cobb, who left the divisional playoff game after injuring himself on a spectacular catch that ended up being nullified by penalty, will enter the season season of the four-year deal he signed last March.
- Casey Hayward hired the same agent, David Mulugheta, used by fellow Packers DBs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Quinten Rollins, Rand Getlin of ESPN.com reports (Twitter links). Hayward is one of Green Bay’s top free agents.