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Ron Rivera: Franchise Savior or Nah?

For more details on this and other similar topics, check out the podcast here: Franchise Savior is a term that usually reserved for a generational QB prospect who’s expected to change the fortunes of a down on its luck football team. The team has been stuck in dysfunction and futility for the better part of thirty years. Traditional thinking says all you need is the quarterback to get this organization back on track but for the Football Team it will take more. It is going to take a strong leader who has the intelligence, vision, and determination to navigate the myriad of controversies the team constantly finds itself in.

Enter Ron Rivera.

Rivera upon his hiring was touted for his ability to change a culture and for his unyielding integrity. Those two qualities have been lacking in DC for an awfully long time. Rivera has the monumental objective of not only turning over a talent deprived roster, dealing with a team name change, sexual harassment stories, email scandals, no long-term QB, teaching a young team how to win, trying to revive a fanbase that has suffered through countless losing seasons, Covid issues, fighting cancer, and of course keeping a meddling owner at bay.

If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. All of that unfortunately is what the head coach of the Washington Football Team must deal with. No longer can a coach in DC hide behind the “I’m just going to focus on the on-field play” mantra. That approached has not worked in thirty years which led to a ‘Coach Centric Approach” employed by team owner Dan Snyder when looking for a new head coach in 2020. Ron being in control of all football operations worked in 2020 as Ron appeared to press all the right buttons with the team surging down the stretch to an NFC East title.

Then things took a turn. The first big mistake for Rivera was how he addressed the quarterback position heading into the 2021 season. In making a play for a veteran QB Rivera was telling his team and fans that he believed the defense was good enough to win now and that we had weapons on offense. We now know both of those to be big miscalculations on his part. Eventually Ron chose to head into the season with (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke) a varied selection of backup and inexperienced quarterbacks. With those mistakes already made Rivera made another one by opting to not select any quarterbacks from the 2021 NFL Draft. The draft featured a large crop of gifted passers that he ignored only to take a middle linebacker prospect that didn’t even play for the first half of the season. Again, that was mistake.

The next set of mistakes Rivera made was how he constructed the roster. Coming off a successful 2020 season the defense saw several players perform well but either weren’t brought back in 2021 or were replaced by free agents or incoming rookies who proved to be ineffective. Players like; (Ronald Darby, Jeremy Reaves, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Jimmy Moreland, Peyton Barber) were all replaced by free agents who have been major disappointments. Kendall Fuller and Kam Curl are both prime examples of more mistakes. Kendall played well as a boundary cornerback the last couple of years but was forced to go into the slot so rookie CB Benjamin St. Juste could play outside. BSJ struggled out on the boundary and in the slot enroute to finding the bench before heading to injured reserve. Kam Curl had to sit and watch while Landon Collins gave up big play after big play to start this season. Those moves were all mistakes.

One of the more serious mistakes Ron has made is that of being too loyal or trusting of his coordinators. Normally that is an excellent quality to have and especially in a leader. In this situation Ron gave his coordinators full autonomy to craft and create their own gameplans. That leeway helped get us our 2-6 record. It took eight games before Ron decided to have his coordinators make changes. Once that happened, the team went on a four-game winning streak.

Rivera is only in year two of trying to turnaround thirty years of dysfunction and decay. Is it fair to expect him to have it all figured out by now, probably not? Is it fair to ask for more wins in year 2, maybe? His integrity and commitment to doing things the right way has given this team a respectability factor that its never had. Rivera will ultimately be judged on whether he can find a long-term answer at QB and having sustained success with said QB.

I give Ron a coaching grade of B so far. That B can change into a C or D with continued roster issues or being slow to make appropriate changes. That B can also change into an A if Ron can find his long-term quarterback this offseason.

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