HOFFMAN: Why Ron Rivera is the right coach to lead Redskins

Craig Hoffman
December 30, 2019 - 4:34 pm
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With a simple, one-paragraph statement, Redskins fans' decade-long nightmare was over.

Bruce Allen, who presided over an average of double-digit losses per season during his 10-year run, was not only removed from the football operation, but from the organization as a whole.

"As this season concludes, Bruce Allen has been relieved of his duties as president of the Washington Redskins and is no longer with the organization,” owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. “Like our passionate fan base, I recognize we have not lived up to the high standards set by great Redskins teams, coaches and players who have come before us. As we reevaluate our team leadership, culture and process for winning football games, I am excited for the opportunities that lie ahead to renew our singular focus and purpose of bringing championship football back to Washington D.C."

Rome was not built in a day and Ashburn will not be rebuilt in one, but this was a first step that means an attempt is legitimately underway. The Redskins have tried half-steps before, like bringing in people around Allen like Scot McCloughan and Brian Lafemina, but those attempts have resulted in high-profile firings and Allen getting more power. 

Multiple GM and head coaching candidates told Snyder and his search group that they would steer clear of Washington if Allen was around. Firing him was Step 1, and it leads directly to Step 2: hiring former Carolina Panthers Ron Rivera. A deal with Rivera is expected to be formalized quickly

Rivera and Allen are polar opposites. Those that know him describe Rivera as warm, empathetic and caring to a fault. His office in Carolina sat right outside the locker room. He set high standards and held players to them, but he did it through showing how much he cared.

Allen is most often described as a politician. He was cold and calculated in situations ranging from Kirk Cousins’s contract negotiations to Trent Williams' medical situation.

Friendliness with the media does not inherently mean someone is a good or bad person, nor does it mean a football coach or executive is good or bad at their job. However, interacting honestly and often with the media is part of the job and it speaks to someone's belief in transparency in a profession that is reliant on fan support.

If I sit down with Rivera tomorrow (or Thursday or whenever he is introduced), I will have sat down with him as many times as I did Allen. I’ve covered the Redskins since 2015.

Sitting down with Allen was no treat. He ducked and dodged questions in interviews of all forms, deflecting blame to anyone but himself.

Rivera is relentlessly positive and even self-deprecating. He left his final press conference in Carolina by holding up a “missed opportunities” T-shirt.

“I think there are some cultural things that need to be addressed, but there's…” quarterback Case Keenum said before tailing off. “That's what happens in this league when you don't produce. I'm pointing the finger at myself. I need to get better, there's certain things I need to do better from a quarterback standpoint, from a leadership standpoint. I'll be better, and we'll move forward.”

The first part of that quote is telling coming from a veteran player who has seen a lot in the NFL and showed enough immediate leadership to be named a captain in August. It is why Snyder believes Rivera is the right coach at the right time.

Rivera is not the schematic guru Jay Gruden was. What he is, is a steady voice who will demand personal and professional excellence in an organization that hasn’t had much of either over the two decades.

That might mean Step 3 in rebuilding the Redskins is finding that schematic identity around quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Keeping offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell would be a step in the right direction, but that decision has to be made jointly by Rivera, Snyder and O’Connell himself.

Defensively, Rivera brings a flexible identity that he will try and match to the talented personnel that so desperately underachieved in 2019. The Redskins have drafted flexible talent over the last few years that can work in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Rivera has run both, though the prevailing thought is a switch to a 4-3 front is on the way.

Those details are for later. The Redskins won’t play another football game for nine months. For now, Step 1 has been taken. Bruce Allen is gone. Step 2 is quite literally on the way.

What’s next is anyone’s guess, but the road to a rebuild can only be taken one step at a time.

Craig Hoffman is the Redskins beat reporter for 106.7 The Fan. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHoffman

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