Why did Ron Rivera choose to coach the Redskins instead waiting for other opportunities? The former Bears linebacker believes he can turn around a franchise that has become toxic.

Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Football

ASHBURN, Va. -- Ron Rivera is unpacking boxes in his office at Redskins Park -- a space so large he's almost a little embarrassed -- looking to make everything just right.

After nine years as coach of the Panthers, the former Bears linebacker (1984-92) collected a lot of things, some sentimental, some inspirational and plenty that stir memories. Six weeks after the Redskins hired him, he's still arranging the room to make it feel like home.

The walls are mostly bare, so as he carefully tapes motivational quotes from historical figures to a white board that stretches the length of the room and includes a depth chart in the left corner near his massive television, there's plenty of room for X's and O's.

There's a lot of military memorabilia, most sent by veterans appreciative of Rivera's longstanding support. He's sorting through patches, photographs and trinkets, each with a story behind it, aligning them in a tall glass case along a wall at the entrance. There are handwritten letters from veterans and the families of fallen soldiers thanking him for his role in TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors). He takes time to read through them.

Atop a shelf along one wall, there's a metal lunchbox his wife, Stephanie, gave him in Carolina to serve as a reminder of his early coaching days as an assistant under Andy Reid in Philadelphia. The Eagles had a safety, Tim Hauck, near the end of a long career, and an opponent was jawing with him pregame. Hauck looked at the player and said, "Bring your lunchbox."

"Then we proceeded to kick the (crap) out of them," Rivera says. "I was looking for a theme when people came into the office, and Stephanie said, 'Well, how about "bring your lunchbox"?' That's kind of been my theme."


Family photos are displayed on shelves, and a stack of frames sits in a chair. One is a photo of him with Walter Payton, whom Rivera credits with helping him break into coaching as a quality control assistant with the Bears in 1997.

There's an "In the Bleachers" comic strip by Steve Moore in which a massively undersized football player says, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can ..." while lined up across from a menacing giant.

"When I first started coaching, that was about believing in what you are capable of," Rivera says. "And that had significance for me."

Then there are two cartoons drawn by the late Richard McMurrin, the superintendent at Halas Hall in the 1980s. One reads "Pancho Villa Rides Again" and depicts Rivera returning an interception of John Elway in a 1987 game at Mile High Stadium. McMurrin did weekly cartoons, some sarcastic, and posted them throughout the building.


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