Almost two months into his tenure as Redskins’ head coach, Ron Rivera finds himself preparing for his first free agency off season in Washington. The team is already making bold but necessary moves in releasing TE Jordan Reed, CB Josh Norman, and WR Paul Richardson Jr (and others) creating over 50 million dollars of cap space. Couple that with potential big moves in the upcoming NFL draft and Rivera may be in a prime position to turn the Redskins’ record upside down sooner than later. With Scott Turner as his offensive coordinator, and Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator, he clearly has a vision of who he believes will implement his strategies effectively on both sides of the football. Adding these two coordinators wasn’t a flashy move by Ron Rivera. It wasn’t even necessarily the best move, but that’s still to be determined. What these moves proved to me was that Rivera knows what he wants, and he knows who he believes are the best leaders to put his plan into action. He did his due diligence before he hired either coach and did the same as he added to the staff. The one head scratcher staff move Rivera made was retaining Redskin special teams coach Nate Kaczor who is entering his second season in that role. Kaczor didn’t really leave a memorable impression to say the least last season, but maybe Rivera saw something on film, or within the personnel that makes him believe Kaczor can improve on last year’s output.
The moment Rivera was hired, the Redskin fans across the DMV were anxious to hear what his vision was. What was he going to change? What was his mindset? A lot of those questions were answered at his press conference as Rivera covered a lot of ground focusing on the change in the culture and player accountability. The Redskins currently hold the second overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. There are plenty of directions that they can choose to go in including drafting Ohio State defensive end Chase Young who seems to be the no-brainer. They also may choose to trade down, which could also prove to be a smart move as they attempt to build for the future, but at the same time aim to fill needs with young players capable of contributing immediately. Rivera has made it clear that he plans to switch to a 4’3 defensive alignment set, which consists of four down linemen and 3 linebackers. Chase Young and 2019 first round pick Montez Sweat, who picked up his play later this past season could anchor that transition.
Either way, I like Rivera’s approach. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything. He tells you exactly what he believes and what his expectations are. Those are key attributes in a leader. You have to command a certain level of respect and trust from your players to make them want to play as hard as they can for you. I believe Rivera embodies this, and while he may not lead the Redskins to a Super Bowl, I believe you will see an immediate change in the climate at Redskins’ Park. You will see a different sense of urgency during practices and a noticeable change in the attention to detail.
Something that has stood out to me about Rivera is that his former players love and respect him. This is a clear indicator that Rivera “gets it”. Rivera has come in and set the tone for COMPETITION. He has started at the quarterback position by letting the incumbent Dwyane Haskins know what his expectations are and that he will have to compete to keep his starting job. Rivera has been outspoken about what he wants to see from his offensive leader and those around him. I like it. I like it a lot. Anybody on the current roster that is afraid of competition, they need to be weeded out. Anybody from the previous regime that does not want to comply with the changes being implemented should find another home. Anybody who does not want to leave mediocrity in their rearview should not be a part of the Redskins’ roster moving forward. With the Redskins not currently having a General Manager by title, expect Ron Rivera to have considerable voice regarding what players are signed via free agency, and what players are drafted and brought in via non-restricted post draft free agents.
This draft will mark a new beginning for the Washington Redskins’ franchise. After an off season fueled with changes from top to bottom within management and the coaching staff, they will now look to add players to embody what the new age Redskin should be. Ron Rivera has his work cut out for him, but it has to be exciting to know he has a young nucleus of players. There is great opportunity to get better fairly quickly through the draft and with available cap money. Only time will tell if the Redskins are able to turn the corner with their head coaching change, but one thing that is undeniable is that Rivera has a PLAN. He has structure and knows what it takes to get to the highest level, the Super Bowl. If he leads, they will follow.
The question is, how far can he get them?
The verdict is still out… As you were...
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon