Ron Rivera is entering his second full season as Washington Football’s head coach with a lot of energy and optimism surrounding the team. A large part of that optimism is based on the team being able to return essentially every starter on a defense that was at the top of the league statistically, and then adding to it via free agency and the draft. There are still some depth question marks on offense that the team hopes to work out, and an uncertainty at quarterback, albeit it is expected that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be the day 1 starter.
In 2020, Rivera did not have the opportunity to have a normal off season and training camp. Despite that, the team was able to put together enough wins to win the division in his first season. Rivera not only had to worry about an ongoing pandemic, but was also fighting his own battle with cancer throughout the season. Rivera’s fight set a standard for the toughness and commitment he wanted to see from his players. His battle was an instant motivational factor and won the locker room over. In one season, Washington went from being one of the most easily disliked organizations, to becoming a fan favorite. A large part because of Coach Rivera and his ability to overcome adversity and lead the team to the playoffs.
All that said, with last year’s successes come this year’s expectations. I advised fans prior to last season to “temper” their expectations of the team and Ron Rivera in his first year. Not only because it was his first season, but we just weren’t sure what type of talent he had to work with considering he had minimal opportunities to evaluate on the field. This season, they have to establish sustained success, and build off of the foundation they have created. They have not won back to back division titles since 1983 and 1984, and have only won it 3 times total since the turn of the century. That said, the prognosis is good for the squad. They have selected what looks to be a solid crop of young talent in the last couple of drafts and a healthy culture appears to be in place. The front office and coaching staff seem to be on the same page and everyone is allowed to do their jobs without distractions or interferences. This is the first training camp in some time when there is no drama surrounding the team, and everything not Covid related that we are hearing is about football. The way it should be.
It will be important for him to keep the team focused as they prepare to defend their division title and work towards the next step, which is the ultimate goal, a Super Bowl. The next few weeks leading up to final cuts will be very telling and we will see who emerges as Rivera’s final-53. As you were…
Photo Credit: Darrell Owens (LegacyMaker Sports Network)