I find this high praise coming from one of the best defensive coaches in the history of the game:
Rivera was a second-round pick in 1984 after the Bears took linebacker Wilber Marshall with their first-round pick. But Rob remembers his father taking to Rivera more than Marshall because of his football acumen.
"He was so smart, he knew the game, great instincts, all that," Rex said. "He never needed reps. That’s something that is tough to find is a guy you can plug in even without practice and he can go in and play multiple positions. But that was something about him, his versatility.
"Obviously, he’s a tough guy and was a physical player, which my dad always appreciated. But it was more his brains than brawn that really impressed my dad." Read more here.
I think we have seen that football acumen Rivera possesses this season finally bear some fruit this season once Rivera removed the shackles of conservative decision-making. Yet I think we need to give Buddy some credit for being a good teacher as well:
Rivera fondly recalls a moment in practice when Buddy called him over to diagnose and call the plays. As the backup middle linebacker, Rivera stood with Buddy, who would ask him what formation the defense should be in and why.
"What’s the call?" Buddy would ask Rivera.
"Blitz to formation," Rivera replied.
"OK, what’s the blitz?" Buddy asked.
From there, it could be the ‘Cheeseburger blitz’ for linebacker Al Harris, or it could be the ‘Samurai blitz’ for linebacker Mike Singletary. "He’d say, ‘Good, good, you’re getting it,’"
Rivera said. "That’s how he taught me. When he’d get in front of the team or defenses he’d tell us why we were playing the defenses. To me it wasn’t just, hey, we’re going to play this, (it was) this is why we’re going to play this. That was kind of the thing that he always did."
I'm betting Rivera is passing this along this method of teaching while also coaching to his young linebackers Kuechly and Klein. In time the players will be able to make the calls on their own just as the coach would.
I think Ryan is truly impressed with what Rivera has accomplished in his time:
"I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Ron," Rex said this week on a teleconference. "He’s a tremendous coach and I go way back to when he was playing for my dad and things, but I never knew him that well, but obviously I’ve followed him through his career. He’s a tremendous coach and I love the way his players play.
"They play hard as heck for him and I think that’s the sign of a good coach. Obviously, you look at what he’s done in this league defensively, it’s something that I’ve always respected as well."
So though we may be playing our second straight Ryan it will also be the second straight week the Ryan brothers face a defense similar to what their father would employ. So who has the advantage now?