San Diego Chargers Defensive Coordinator Ron Rivera was named head coach of the Carolina Panthers on Tuesday.
“I’m excited for Ron,” Head Coach Norv Turner said. “He has aspired to be an NFL head coach and I expect him to do an outstanding job.
“Ron is an outstanding communicator. He has worked under and learned from a long list of head coaches. That experience will serve him well. The Panthers are fortunate to land Ron as their new head coach.”
Chargers President Dean Spanos echoed Turner’s praise.
“I appreciate Ron’s hard work and the support he and the defensive staff have provided Norv and the team,” Spanos said.
Said General Manager A.J. Smith: “It’s been quite a wait for Ron, but it’s finally come. We are all happy for him. He is very much deserving of this opportunity.”
Turner and the Chargers now will begin the process of finding a new defensive coordinator.
The Chargers’ defense made great strides over the past three years. The defensive staff, comprised of Rivera, secondary coach Steve Wilks, linebackers coach John Pagano, line coach Don Johnson, assistant secondary coach Cris Dishman and assistant linebackers coach Greg Williams, helped the unit improve from an overall defensive ranking of 25th in the NFL, including 11th against the run and 31st against the pass in 2008, to 16th overall in 2009 and first overall in 2010. In particular, the pass defense has improved from an overall ranking of 31st in 2008 to first in 2010.
Wilks and Pagano are expected to be interviewed for the position as well as potential candidates outside the organization.
Turner and his defensive staff began implementing a more aggressive defensive philosophy following the ’09 season, which proved beneficial this season.
“Everyone throws the ball so well now. The yardage is up. The scoring is up,” Turner said back in July. “You have to find a way to get stops. The quicker you get a stop, the quicker we get the ball back offensively. You look at the teams that create turnovers, stops, sacks and fumbles. You get those things when you’re playing aggressively. I think that style will fit our players.
“You have to either be disrupting the quarterback, and you do that with pressure, or you have to be disrupting receivers, banging them off the line, jamming them. If you’re not rushing more than four, you better be doing a great job of disrupting receivers’ routes so the quarterback has to hold the ball.”
Turner has complete confidence in his current defensive staff.
“I feel we have one of the top defensive staffs in the league, and I see no reason why we can’t continue that same excellence and even improve in 2011,” Turner said.