The Chicago Bears may be sitting at home watching the NFL Playoffs unfold, but at least in one game this weekend, there are a couple of coaches with deep ties to the team who will be doing battle.
Those two men are Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49’ers, and Ron Rivera, the head coach of the Carolina Panthers. Both men are in charge of teams who have made their name this season by playing an intense brand of defense, and when they face-off on Sunday in Charlotte, the ensuing slugfest will determine who will head to Seattle to play the Seahawks next week in the NFC Championship game.
Harbaugh was drafted by the Bears in the first round of the 1987 NFL Draft, and he ended up starting 89 games for the franchise. He currently is second on the all-time list among Bears quarterbacks for most completions in his career, and he threw 50 touchdowns and 56 interceptions during his time in the Windy City.
Harbaugh ended up making a bigger impact with the Indianapolis Colts, as he led them to the 1995 AFC Championship Game as he threw a career high 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions in that season.
Speaking of Bears players drafted in the 1980’s, Rivera was a wide receiver that the Bears took in the second round of the 1984 Draft. He ended up winning Super Bowl XX with the Bears, and after a nine year career with the team, he worked as a TV analyst for several Chicago media outlets.
That line of work really didn’t stick though, and he got into coaching in the mid-1990’s. He worked as the defensive quality control coach under Dave Wannstedt for the Bears beginning in 1996, and was brought back as a defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith in 2004 after spending five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Rivera was let go after the 2007 Super Bowl, which the Bears lost to the Colts.
Both coaches played together in Chicago, and both employ various elements to their schemes that were derived from their time here. Their hard-nosed aggressive defenses hearken back to the old 46 days under Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan, and their offenses are reliant on quarterbacks who are just as likely to run the ball as they are to stay in the pocket and throw it.
It will be an interesting game between two of the best teams in the league, and it will have a distinctive Chicago flavor.