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Chico and the Man

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Feb 20, 2007 3:23PM

2007_02_sports_chico_rivera.jpgTalk about a dramatic fall from the top! After weeks of rumors and speculation that Ron Rivera was a candidate for nearly every head coaching opening in the NFL, "the Man" had other plans for poor Chico. First he got passed over for the San Diego Chargers top job, and then Bears management tossed their defensive coordinator out in the cold.

The San Diego Chargers — who surprised many by firing Marty Schottenheimer following a 14-2 season — named Norv Turner as their new head coach on Monday, filling the final head coaching vacancy. Rivera had interviewed for the position in recent days.

With news of Turner's hiring, most Bears fans finally exhaled. While mentioned as a possible choice for the Pittsburgh, Miami, Dallas and San Deigo jobs, all of those organizations had gone in other directions. Now the Bears could re-sign Chico to continue heading up their formidable Bears defense.

But Bears management apparently saw things differently. Rather than reward Rivera with the big contract he deserved, the Bears chose to part ways with the defensive leader. What were they thinking, parting ways with the defensive coordinator who helped ruturn the Bears D into a force to be feared?

According to Bears head coach Lovie Smith, "It's just a fit that we have. Right now the direction I would like to go and the direction that Ron would like to go are not the same." Well, that's sure helps give some clarity to why Rivera isn't returning. Should be interesting whether any additional dirt regarding the "different directions" leaks out. Could it have anything to do with whether Tank Johnson should return? Did Lovie simply fear any cash lining Rivera's pocket would mean less cash in his pockets when he finally gets his extension?

While he didn't land the top job with the Chargers, Rivera must have made some impresssion on San Diego's management. Monday evening, they hired him as their linebackers coach. Sure, it's kind of a demotion but he does join the staff of a team that won 14 games last season and should be among the early favorites to win next year's Super Bowl. And we're willing to bet that Chico finally lands that head coaching job next offseason.