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Washington feels impact of Ron Rivera’s first season

Ron Rivera - photo courtesy of SportingNews.

Washington feels impact of Ron Rivera’s first season
January 13
14:31 2021

For nearly two decades, the Washington Football Team has pretty much been non-relevant in the NFL. That same time period coincides with the period majority owner Dan Snyder, who is widely regarded as one of the worst owners in the sport, has owned the team. Luckily for Snyder, he has finally made a wise choice in hiring Ron Rivera to lead the franchise in a new direction.

Snyder purchased the franchise in 1999 for $750 million and has a history of wasting money on aging veterans, premature coaching changes, and wrong coaching hires, along with taking a hard stance on not changing the team name that many found offensive (Redskins). Thankfully for the franchise and the fans, Snyder has seemed to take a step back and let his front office handle football operations, for the most part.

I say for the most part because from all accounts, it was Snyder’s idea to draft former Ohio State quarterback and D.C. area native Dwayne Haskins with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2019 draft. Apparently, Haskins went to high school with Snyder’s son and he was familiar with him.

To his credit, besides the Haskins pick, Snyder has primarily stayed out of the way and let his football people do their job. In the last five seasons, the franchise has done a great job with the draft and not spending a lot of money on high-priced free agents that never pan out to be worth the money in their contracts.

As far as coaching hires go, Rivera is probably the best hire Snyder has made during his time as owner. Washington went from laughingstock of the league to respectability in just one season. While their record was just 7-9, it was enough to win the NFC East and earn a playoff spot for the first time in five years. If a few plays from the losses had gone the other way, the team could have easily won 10 or 11 games.

Before the seasons started, many analysts and football experts said the Washington Football Team was going to finish dead last in the division. I even saw a few predictions that had the team only winning one game the entire season. I guess Rivera more than proved them wrong.

Rivera has come in and changed the culture very quickly in Washington. Before he arrived, sometimes it appeared as though the team expected to lose or anticipated things going wrong. Now you can see the team knows they have a chance at winning every time they step foot on the field.

Anyone who knows the sport of football can see that there are areas of improvement on the football team as compared to last season. One of the biggest changes has been the play of the defense. Washington had a top five defense for the first time in many years. Rivera and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio have turned the defensive unit into one of the best in the league led by a defensive line that boasts five first-round picks in the rotation.

The switch from the 3-4 to a 4-3 defense allowed our best pass rushers to do what they do best, which is get to the quarterback, rather than dropping into coverage. The change also benefited the defensive tackles who now have fewer double teams to worry about.

It would have been hard to fathom such a drastic change when you look at the numbers from the 2019 season, where the football team finished 26th in the league in total defense and 31st in rushing yards allowed. The mix of young talent, veteran presence and scheme change has the defense set up to be great once a few pieces are added to the linebacking core and secondary.

As a Washington fan, I didn’t think we had a shot to make the playoffs this year. I am a realist and I thought next year would be the time the team made the jump to the playoffs. There were so many issues the team had to deal with in such a short time, I felt it may be too much to overcome.

The lack of an offseason and preseason, questions as quarterback, Rivera’s battle with cancer, and the backlash of the team nickname all could have derailed the team.I think Rivera’s presence in the locker room kept the team together though it all and the team persevered because of it.

Washington will play Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs. Win or lose, this will have to go down as a successful season for Washington and Rivera. This can only boost the players’ morale going into next season.

The Washington roster is loaded with young talent on defense and some potential stars on offense. Although the offense has holes it needs to fill, players like Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, J.D. McKissic and Logan Thomas have all played well this year.

The biggest hole Rivera and the team needs to address is the quarterback position. Haskins has been released, Kyle Allen is recovering from injury and Alex Smith may not return next season. If the team can find the proper signal caller, there is a chance that Rivera and the Washington Football Team can be a force to be reckoned with for quite some time. 

Washington has finally found the right coach at the right time.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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