(CBS) Ron Rivera has been in this very position before. In fact, it was 30 years ago that he was part of a Bears team that entered the Super Bowl with just a single loss to its name.
Now, Rivera’s the leader of the Carolina Panthers, a team that stormed to the NFC Championship win over the Cardinals on Sunday, 49-15. His team has the likely league MVP in quarterback Cam Newton and a dominating defense. More so, the Panthers have that kind of swagger that paced the 1985 Bears, coached by Mike Ditka, to a championship.
“One of the things coach Ditka emphasized to us was to enjoy the moment,” Rivera told reporters after Sunday’s victory in the NFC Championship.
The ’85 Bears created the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” a song made before they even rolled the Patriots, 46-10, on Jan. 26, 1986 in New Orleans. Their team had plenty of personality that presented side stories to the team’s dominance.
This season, the Panthers have been polarizing on their way to Super Bowl 50 — similar to the Bears in Super Bowl XX.
Rivera is the fifth former Bears player to lead his team to the Super Bowl, joining Ditka, Sean Payton, Jeff Fisher and Jim Harbaugh. He hopes his Panthers take in the experience, just as the Bears did 30 years ago.
“They’re going to embrace it,” Rivera said. “It’s really a matter of managing it more than anything else. They’ve earned it. They deserve it. But the thing we’ve got to remember is what we’re playing for, and that’s to win it.
Now in his fifth season as Panthers coach and with his third straight playoff appearance, Rivera has taken the Carolina franchise to new heights. Like Ditka, he created a winning culture for an organization.
In leading a polarizing team to the Super Bowl, Rivera’s looking to end his season like Ditka’s team did 30 years ago.
“To be in that class is really neat,” Rivera said. “I’d like to be able to emulate what Coach (Ditka) did and win it.”