The adage that “good things happen to good people’’ got kneecapped in early 2007. That’s when Bears coach Lovie Smith cut ties with defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, even though the defense had led the team to the Super Bowl a few weeks before.
Smith wasn’t forthcoming about the reasons for the split.
“You should trust me as a head football coach to put us in the best position to win football games,” Smith said at the time. “It’s as simple as that.’’
Something certainly was simple: Smith felt threatened by the popular Rivera, a member of the vaunted 1985 Bears and a friend to many people inside Halas Hall, including ownership. So, rather than have coaching continuity heading into the next season, Lovie bounced Rivera and elevated his buddy, linebackers coach Bob Babich, to coordinator. It took years for the defense to recover. Since that Super Bowl appearance, the Bears have made the playoffs just once.
After getting fired following the 2012 season, Smith landed the Tampa Bay head coaching job in 2014. He went 8-24 in two seasons, then got canned there, too.
Things have gone much, much better for Rivera. In 2011, the Panthers hired him as their head coach. The team struggled his first two years but won the NFC South each of the past three seasons. Carolina went 15-1 in 2015 and will face Denver in Super Bowl 50. The Panthers are 5 ½-point favorites.
Good things for a good person.