"No question, Ron saved my butt"--Joe Kapp, Cal Head Coach, 1983.
Sports Illustrated described why this way. In part, it reads, "With 1:20 to go and the score tied at 17-17, Bears Kicker Randy Pratt made a 22-yard field goal, but he was roughed on the play. Defying common wisdom, Cal Coach Joe Kapp elected to take the penalty—and the three points off the board—and go for the TD. On the next play, with the ball on the Aggie two-yard line, Quarterback Gale Gilbert fumbled the snap. A&M recovered, but two plays later Hawkins, sweeping to his right, was trapped by Rivera in the end zone. Said Kapp, "No question, Ron saved my butt."
Ron Rivera was a fabulous high school player and Everybody's All-American in 1983 at the University of California. As a senior, he was allowed to freelance, line up wherever he thought he could impact the upcoming play.
He was seen
|Credit: Merv Corning|
Wilson had been a slow starter for the Bears, a First round pick in the 1980 NFL Draft. Wilson was listed at 6-2, 224 pounds and had a published 40-yard time of 4.6. He was another "everybody's All-American" at Louisville in 1979. But, he found himself in the midst of Buddy Ryan perfecting his 46 defense and at times during his first four years he flashed, but also frustrated Ryan and Bear Head Coach Mike Ditka. The additions of Marshall and Rivera had to be a signal to Wilson.
In 1984 he began to show his potential and was consistently making plays, adding in his bravado (predicting a Patriots shutout in Super Bowl XX). Wilson, in the 46 would line up on the strong side, far outside the tight end with Richard Dent on the opposite side. In the base defense, he was the left outside linebacker.
From 1984-87 he averaged 9 sacks a year (counting 1987 as a half-season) as the bookend to Richard Dent. However, it is an interesting note that Wilson did that while not being on the field when the Bears were in their nickel defense, in likely passing situations.
Of course, this was the NFL of the 1980s, not the 2010s where anywhere from 40% to 67% of the time defenses are in nickel or dime packages. In the
Rivera, in the mean time was playing special teams and filling in where called upon. In 1986 he got the call to start his first two games, filling in for Mike Singeltary and did a good job, recording 11 tackles in his first start and eight in his second. He also would fill in on special packages Ryan
However, he didn't get his first real playing time until 1987 when Wilson was injured and Rivera showed well. In the six games he got almost all the snaps (including 5 starts) he recorded 30 tackles, 5 of them for losses, picked off two passes and got a sack.
It is no wonder when Wilson, in August of 1988, tore up his knee, that Rivera got the call to step in. The next two seasons, 1988-89 Rivera was solid but nothing spectacular. He was what could be called "just a guy", making a few players, but not what the Bears wanted from their SAM backer and he was replaced by John Roper who was more in the mold of Wilson.
Meanwhile, the Bears left Wilson unprotected in Plan B free agency and the Los Angeles Raiders signed him. In a short bit in Los Angeles, Wilson was signed, cut, resigned for less money, started one game and then cut again, for good this time. Raider Head Coach Mike Shanahan wasn't ready to blame the injury, but suggested that Wilson was not 100%, but the bottom line was, "Otis wasn't making the plays he needs to make". And that ended Wilson's career.
Wilson seemed custom-made for the 3-4 and
Here are some screenshots of Wilson in man coverage on TE Clint Didier in 1985 when
However, it begs the question, if he can get 9 sacks a year
|Otis Wilson playing 3-technique between Dent and William Perry|
Rivera had a stint in the media, then in 1997 he got into NFL coaching. He learned under the Jim Johnson-scheme in Philadelphia, and then was the Bears defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith where he became expert in the Tampa-2 scheme. He moved on to the Chargers and learned the ins- and outs of Ted Cotrell's 3-4 defense before becoming the coordinator there. Next stop was Carolina, then the playoffs, now the Super Bowl.
Career summaries for both:
|Chart credit: PFJ|
|Chart credit: PFJ|