Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera gave tips to current and prospective coaches on how to break into the league during his keynote address at the third annual NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy at the Omni Hotel.
Rivera spoke Sunday for nearly 30 minutes to more than 60 current and former NFL players about how he got started in coaching, information that enabled him to get a head coaching job nearly 15 years after becoming a coach.
Just because you played in the league doesnt mean youre going to be a better coach. Understand that, Rivera said. Just because you played doesnt make you better. But it does give you perspective. It gives you something to draw from but you have something that others dont.
You had the chance to play at the peak of our profession. Use it to your advantage and your teams advantage, but it doesnt make you better than everyone else.
The NFL-NCAA Coaches Academy is one of several NFL player engagement forums and the first of 10 career training programs for current and former players. The academy is a three-day event thats aimed at helping players climb the college and professional coaching ladders.
Rivera, who is of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent, is one of four minority head coaches in the NFL and became the third Hispanic coach in NFL history when the Panthers hired him in 2011.
The academy comes in an offseason in which no minorities were hired for the eight NFL head-coaching openings.
It was (disheartening). But I wish we could get past the minority thing, I really do, Rivera said in an interview with the Observer after the speech. It kind of bothers me when people say well Cam (Newton) is a black quarterback. Well, hes a quarterback. Arent we past that yet?
But it is kind of disheartening because, and Ill give you a name, (Giants defensive coordinator) Perry Fewell. Hes a great coach and I really think he should have been in the cycle.
This guy went to the Super Bowl last year and helped design a (heck of a) defense. Sometimes you do sit there and go, Wow, some guys do get overlooked, and its happened to me, too. Hopefully Perry will have a great opportunity next year.
Of the 60 attendees Sunday night, 45 of them are black. Most have coaching jobs at small colleges while some were looking to get hired to their first coaching position.
I think a lot of it was confirmation that Im heading down the right path and putting in the time, said Terrell Buckley, a former NFL cornerback now coaching the position at Akron.
Im doing the right things. And to hear a head coach talk about the sacrifices that you have to make, commitment that you have to put forth and something truly that you want to do, in the end its worth it.
He began the speech by talking about how he broke into coaching after doing sideline reporting for a Chicago TV station. From there he detailed his steps to becoming a head coach in a PowerPoint presentation, showing coaching books from his days in Chicago to the Panthers.
Contained in the books, which a coaching candidate would take to an interview, are his coaching philosophies, potential practice schedules and what he knows about the team.
Dont think youre being presumptive in putting together a book for the Super Bowl schedule, Rivera said. Youre confident.
He got his start in the coaching business like most former players do as a quality control coach.
Five years after he retired from the game, he re-joined the Chicago Bears as a defensive quality control coach in 1997 before moving to Philadelphia as a linebackers coach and finally breaking through as the Bears defensive coordinator in 2004.
Other Panthers coaches in attendance were special teams coordinator Richard Rodgers, defensive quality control coach Sam Mills III and defensive line coach Eric Washington.
Eight other NFL teams interviewed Rivera for head coach openings before the Panthers hired him. Rivera implored the audience to not give up after being turned down because the job may not have been the right fit.
Just because you dont get the job doesnt mean you failed, he said.
Learn from each and every mistake. After the process whether you get the job or not, ask them to debrief you. Find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, then improve them.