Ron Rivera has been around the NFL block a few times.
Rivera was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers from 2011-19. That’s nine NFL seasons as the guy with the most weight on his shoulders, which involves planning, vision casting and oversight of all the coaches and players.
In addition, every single one of those seasons, Rivera had to face off against Sean Payton. Payton was then head coach of the New Orleans Saints. Which means not only did Rivera’s team play against Payton’s team, but being in the same NFL division, Rivera had to square off against Payton not once, but twice each season.
“It was always difficult because you know, Sean’s one of those guys that has a lot of answers, he really does. Just because he knows how he wants to attack you and if you counter it, he has something prepared, ready to go. And [Defensive Coordinator] Jack’s [Del Rio] gone against him as well, so we both have a pretty good understanding. But there’s always still that unknown with him.”
For a decade, Rivera had to prepare to face Drew Brees. Sunday, he will have to face another Super Bowl winner, quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson’s play dipped sharply last season. But Wilson did look better last Sunday against the Raiders.
“I see he still has a good arm, good mobility back there,” Rivera said of Wilson. “They talked about how he had lost weight, and you see it. He’s moving well. He’s still a good decision-maker. He gets the ball out quick. He’s got an NFL arm still. I think he’s still learning and growing in Coach Payton’s offense.”
Rivera knows Payton will not be too concerned Sunday with keeping every one of his players happy. Payton will be out to execute his plan to win.
“He utilizes his playmakers very well, and the idea is trying to get the ball to them as quickly as possible,” Rivera said. “And I think Russell has the type of arm that can suit it and fit very well. So, I think as they work together and they grow, they’re gonna become more and more efficient, and they’re gonna cause a lot more problems for people.”