When asked what he was looking for in his next coaching job on Jan. 2, Ron Rivera quickly responded with “fit.”
He found that “fit” as he became the new head coach of the Washington Redskins. His hiring comes after the Carolina Panthers fired Rivera on Dec. 3. He becomes the Redskins’ third coach in the last 10 years.
In his introductory press conference, Rivera stressed the importance of developing a winning culture for the team moving forward, citing the historical Redskins teams of the past. When asked if there was anything he wanted to do differently than previous coaches, Rivera did not hesitate to say, “Win the Super Bowl.”
“There is a lot of history behind this football team,” Rivera said. “In order for us to get back where we want to be, we have to study that history, embrace that history, and prepare to repeat that history.”
Rivera was a member of the 1985 Super Bowl Champion Chicago Bears as a player and coached the Panthers to the Super Bowl in 2015. He left Carolina as the franchise’s winningest coach with a 79–67–1 record and earned Coach of the Year honors twice.
“This is going to be my 34th year in the league,” Rivera said. “I’ve seen a lot, done a lot, and one thing that I have had is the success to be on a Super Bowl championship team. I’d love to give these guys that opportunity, so they know what it feels like, what the experience is when you’re standing on the podium. That’s what we want to work toward.”
The Redskins have not done much winning as of late. Washington has not won a playoff game since 2005 and claimed only two division titles since 2000. This past season ended with only three wins and the removal of then-Head Coach Jay Gruden midway through the campaign.
Owner Dan Snyder said the team needs a culture change and believes Rivera is the right person for the job.
“We need someone that can bring a winning culture to our organization, and it starts and ends with our head coach,” Snyder said. “We’re going to have one voice and one voice alone, and that’s the coach’s.”
Fan apathy has been at an all-time high, with large portions of FedExField showing empty seats or supporters of the away team throughout the 2019 season. Building a competitive roster will be the first way to bring fans back to the stadium to support Washington, Rivera said.
“I want our fans to know that’s (the Super Bowl) what we’re working for,” Rivera said. “I understand they’re disgruntled. I understand they’re upset, and they deserve to be. So we’ve got to start winning.”
Rivera said that Snyder originally asked him to create more of a coach-centric culture providing examples of the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks. While he supported that idea, Rivera asked him to follow his suggestion into creating a more player-focused environment before taking the job. That challenge is the main reason he took the Washington job, he said.
“I told him I would be honored but under one condition: it would have to be a player-centered culture, something I truly do believe in,” Rivera said. “My response is to get the most out of the players, to work with them, to teach them, mentor them. If I have to do it one-by-one, I will most certainly will do it. I’ve done it in the past, and I’ll do it again.”
After watching game tape on the Redskins this year, Rivera said he became convinced he could win with the “raw talent” on the roster, including quarterback Dwayne Haskins. As the coach of the Panthers, Rivera faced off against Washington in Week 13, where the rookie threw for 147 yards while running back Derrius Guice scored two touchdowns in the Redskins’ 29-21 win.
When asked about the former Bullis School signal-caller, Rivera called him a “franchise-style quarterback” but said he would need to work on his development moving forward.
“It’s a process,” Rivera said. “I’m not going to say it’s going to happen overnight, but I’ve been fortunate that several years ago, we drafted a guy as the No. 1 pick and we planned. What we’re trying to do right now is develop that plan for his development as we go forward.”
Part of the team’s overall development is evolving the defense. The Redskins finished with the second-worst running defense, and the 27th ranked overall defensive unit. To fix their defensive woes, Rivera brought in a coach with a history of prolific defenses in Jack Del Rio as the new defensive coordinator. Del Rio was recently the head coach of the Oakland Raiders from 2015-17.
Moving forward, Rivera will hope to have the majority of his staff in place as the offseason for Washington beings in February. Every move and hire will hopefully lead to success, Rivera said, as he looks to help the Redskins rebound after their tragic 2019 season.
“We are going to do things the right way and that’s the only way we’re going to do them. If it doesn’t help us, we aren’t doing it,” said Rivera. “I believe in me, and I’ll bet on me.”