Panthers coach fills in blanks on firing and hiring of McDermott

Nick Collins' interception return for a TD was the 13th in Super Bowl history. It put the Packers up by 14-0 in the first quarter.
Nick Collins' interception return for a TD was the 13th in Super Bowl history. It put the Packers up by 14-0 in the first quarter.
Posted: February 07, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas - When Andy Reid fired Sean McDermott, one of first people he called was Ron Rivera.

Four days after the season ended with a playoff loss to the Packers, the Eagles' coach decided that McDermott's two-year reign as defensive coordinator had run its course. But Reid wanted to buy his young protege some time to find another job. So he contacted another of his former charges, who had just landed the Carolina Panthers' head-coaching position.

"When all that was going down, I talked to Coach Reid, who was very candid about it," said Rivera, who was in North Texas for Super Bowl XLV. "He said, 'Ron, Sean's in a tough, tough position. He's following [the late] Jim Johnson.' "

If Rivera hadn't left the Eagles in 2003, he would have likely been the legendary Johnson's replacement. Rivera was the linebackers coach then and left to take the defensive coordinator's job in Chicago. From there, he went to San Diego before being named Carolina's coach on Jan. 11.

Two days later, McDermott was cut loose. He interviewed first with Rivera and then with Denver. By Jan. 15, however, the 36-year-old's firing became public.

"Andy wanted to have it be seamless, and unfortunately it wasn't," Rivera said. "Andy's whole guise in my discussion with him was, 'We've got to make people understand that it was not as much because Sean did a bad job or anything. It was just as much always going to be tough and unfair for him. We've got to create a situation.' "

Although McDermott did not have much success in his two seasons leading the Eagles' defense, Rivera hired his former colleague. McDermott's units ranked 12th in the NFL in both years but were near the bottom of the league in passing touchdowns allowed with 27 and 31. The Eagles also had the worst red-zone defense in 22 years in 2010.

"When you talk about great Philadelphia defenses, they talk about Jim Johnson," said Rivera, who likened McDermott's predicament to that of Dave Wannstedt, who followed Mike Ditka as Bears coach when Rivera was a Chicago linebacker. "So there was a tremendous amount of pressure. Sean grew up in the area, so there was even more pressure."

Rivera, who will use a 4-3 scheme, said that McDermott was his first choice.

Reid shocked many by naming his offensive line coach, Juan Castillo, as his new defensive coordinator last week.

"I don't know if it is as crazy as people say it is," Rivera said. "I think it could be a very dynamic thing. I'm sure there's going to be a lot of criticism. But I also think, after having been in his situation, why not? Why not?"

Collins' pick

The first-quarter interception and touchdown by Green Bay's Nick Collins was the 13th in Super Bowl history.

Teams that returned interceptions for touchdowns were 10-0 coming into the game.

Collins' pick-six put the Packers ahead, 14-0, and came just 24 seconds after they opened the scoring with Jordy Nelson's 29-yard TD reception. The Green Bay safety intercepted Ben Roethlisberger, who was hit by Packers nose tackle Howard Green as he threw out of his own end zone.

The football fluttered in the air, and Collins pulled it in at the 37-yard line. He then ran untouched to the 10 where he evaded a tackler and dove into the end zone. Collins, however, was whistled for an excessive-celebration penalty when he dropped to his knees and pointed to the sky.

Bumps and bruises

Pittsburgh went into halftime down in more than just points.

The Steelers lost two players to injury in the first half - cornerback Bryant McFadden (hip) and receiver Emmanuel Sanders (foot). Tackle Flozell Adams injured his shoulder but returned.

Pittsburgh came into the game already down a starter when center Maurice Pouncey was placed on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain last week. Backup Doug Legursky started in his place.

The Packers also had a number of ailing players at the break. Wide receiver Donald Driver went to the locker room to have an ankle X-rayed, and the results were negative. However, he did not return. Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson suffered a collarbone injury and was ruled out for the second half.

Cornerback Sam Shields also suffered a shoulder injury.


Contact staff writer Jeff McLane at 215-854-4745 or jmclane@phillynews.com.

Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Jeff_McLane

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