It’s been a rough season all around for the Washington Redskins. The team’s dealt with front office ineptitude, a star player that refused to ever play in a Redskins uniform ever again and, of course, just plain bad on-field performances.
It’s arguable this was the worst season in franchise history, yet this offseason doesn’t feel quite so hopeless.
On Thursday afternoon, when team owner Dan Snyder introduced new head coach Ron Rivera, things felt different. That’s because Rivera isn’t like any coach that Snyder has ever hired.
Rivera checks off just about every box necessary for a team going through a total youth movement. Rivera was hired by the Panthers after their disastrous 2-14 season in 2010, and managed to lead the team to a 6-10 record in his first season behind rookie quarterback Cam Newton.
It all went uphill from there, and by 2015, Rivera had led the Panthers to three consecutive NFC South titles. This accumulated to a Super Bowl appearance in 2015 after a 15-1 regular season record and an MVP season from Newton. Rivera has proven that he can turn a franchise around in this league, and there’s hope that he can do the same in Washington.
Rivera will have a lot of pieces to work with to make that happen.
One of the more positive takeaways from this season was the amount of on-field experience for a lot of the younger guys on the team. After all, the Redskins had the third most snaps from rookies in the NFL this season. Even in a season as lowly as this one, that experience matters.
We saw strides made from rookies Dwayne Haskins, Terry McLaurin, Cole Holcomb and Montez Sweat throughout the season. These are guys that, with the right coaching staff, could take off in Year 2. Lucky for them, Rivera is giving them exactly that.
While the team has yet to decide on who the offensive coordinator will be, though Kevin O’Connell appears to be the favorite, they did decide on Jack Del Rio to run the defense.
Del Rio is the most high-profile defensive coordinator this team has had since Gregg Williams, and it’s not even close. His track record as both a head coach and as a defensive coordinator is impressive, and his disciplinarian coaching style goes well with Rivera’s no-nonsense demeanor. Both coaches have led impressive defensive units in the past, and it’s easy to envision them getting the best out of the guys currently on the roster now.
The decision to hire Rivera goes beyond just winning football games though. Rivera is being brought in to establish a team culture that hasn’t been prevalent since Joe Gibbs’ second tenure with the team in the mid-2000s.
Rivera is seen as one of the most respected coaches in the league, and for good reason. He demands the best out of his team just like they demand the best out of him, and his focus on developing men into leaders is something the team just did not have with Jay Gruden.
“I’ll do what I can to help these young men become not just the players we want, but the men in the community we need,” Rivera said. “These are the guys that can help change things. Not just on the football field, but in this world, and I really do believe that.”
Despite Snyder’s track record with this team, it’s hard not to like this hire. Rivera is the kind of coach that can give this team a confidence and edge that hasn’t been seen by a Redskins team in some time, and if Snyder can let him construct the team as he wishes, we could be looking at a team with playoff aspirations on a yearly basis. That’s a big if, but at some point Snyder has to realize the error of his ways, right?
The team has yet to announce the new GM or any other front office hires since they cleaned house on Black Monday, so it’s hard to definitively say exactly how Rivera and the front office will collaborate together, but it appears that this team is finally trending up.
What we do know is how Rivera will coach this team and that, win or loss, the culture will be damn good.
“Things will begin and end with one simple principle, discipline,” Rivera said.