Redskins renew commitment to culture change with Ron Rivera

Chris Lingebach
January 02, 2020 - 5:01 pm

Redskins owner Daniel Snyder impressed one core ideal upon a captive audience in Ashburn, where he introduced new head coach Ron Rivera on Thursday: culture.

"What the Redskins have needed is a culture change, someone who can bring a winning culture to our organization, and it starts and ends with our head coach," said Snyder, speaking publicly for the first time in ages, perhaps because the person who would usually handle such formalities is Bruce Allen, who Snyder fired on Monday after a decade of failed leadership.

It's a striking tone for Snyder to take, considering it was precisely the Redskins' culture Allen sought to defend when he announced former coach Jay Gruden's firing on Oct. 7. It was on that day that Allen, in the face of public scrutiny over his 0-5 football team, declared of the Redskins: "You know, the culture is actually damn good."

Apparently Snyder begs to differ.

The Redskins would go on to win just three more games after Gruden's ouster, finishing the season 3-13, which puts them in prime position to draft a potential franchise changing player with the No. 2 overall pick. It was a good time to reevaluate who would be directing that draft pick, Snyder ultimately decided.

Gone is Allen and his 62-102-1 record (including both playoff losses) over the past 10 years. If that was a 'damn good culture,' it's all about to change.

In is Ron Rivera, who led Carolina to the playoffs in four of nine seasons before being fired on Dec. 3 after a 5-7 start in 2019.

"When looking for that man, I look for a class act," Snyder said. "That's how you describe Coach Rivera. He was two-time coach of the year, and for those of you that don't understand, that's very, very hard to do. You should Google that, because it's impressive, impressive."

"I did my research, spent a lot of time talking to a lot a of lot of people, a lot of coaches," the owner went on to say. "And one thing that came across were certain words. And these words were: integrity, honesty, knowledge, grit, determination. It's all about winning. Ron Rivera knows how to win as a player, as a coach, as the new head coach of the Redskins.

"One thing that's very, very important, we're gonna have one voice, and only one voice alone, and that's the coach's."

That voice arrived at the podium moments later and spoke of how he plans to change that culture for the better, something Rivera's already accomplished once in his career, with the height of his time in Carolina materializing into a Super Bowl visit after going 15-1 in 2015.

For Rivera, replicating that type of success in Washington begins with the owner's approach to him as the head coach. On why he chose the Redskins, Rivera said, "I know a lot of you guys are wondering that right now, with everything that's out there. I can tell you right now, this is not about the money."

"If I wanted the money," he said, "I'd still be out there trying to pit a couple teams against each other. I took this job for one simple reason: because Dan Snyder came to me with a very interesting perspective..."

"For weeks, he's explored the reasons why some teams win and some teams don't," he continued. "He told me the common factor in that transitional success of teams like the Patriots, the Seahawks and the Chiefs... was the decision to take it and make a coach-centered approach.

"Not an owner-centered approach, or a team president or a GM, but a coach-centered approach. I told Mr. Snyder that I appreciate the fact that he believes the head coach matters. But I told him I would be honored, but under one condition: it had to be a player-centered culture."

What exactly that looks like we'll find out in the coming years, but it should come as a breath of fresh air to Redskins fans just to hear the words. Speaking of which, Rivera hit all the right notes during his presser, exuding the confidence of the experienced veteran that he is while delivering fans the message they want to hear.

"There are only 32 of us at any one given time, and these jobs are scarce," Rivera said. "But this one, the Washington Redskins, this one's special. This is one of the almost original teams, started in 1932. There's a lot of history behind this football team. And in order for us to get back to where we want to be, we've got to study that history, embrace that history and prepare to repeat that history. Because if not, we're doomed to repeat the most recent history. And we're not gonna do that, guys. We really aren't."

"Everything we do is gonna be about winning," he said. "We're gonna do things the right way and that's the only way we're gonna do 'em, because if it doesn't help us, we're not doing it, men. That's just as simple as it gets."

Rivera went on to tell Chad Dukes of 106.7 The Fan that Joe Gibbs – a three-time Super Bowl winner with the Redskins – played an instrumental role in his recruitment.

"Probably the one person who really helped me through this entire process was Joe Gibbs," Rivera told Dukes. "He was tremendous. He really was. I reached out to him, we talked for about 20 minutes. Then I reached out to him again and we talked for a little bit longer. And in between I'm visiting with Mr. Snyder."

"And then I came back after one of my big visits with him, and I said, 'You know, I've got to go talk to Coach.' And Coach invited me to his home and we sat down and we talked about what Mr. Snyder talked about, of being coach-centric," he explained. "We had a great conversation about what that means and what it should look like.

"So as he and I went back and forth about that, I really kind of pictured that, and so the last time I sat down with Mr. Snyder, I had a much clearer vision as to what he was talking about, what he meant and I really felt that the message I was trying to convey and his vision really seemed to meld very nicely."

Many Redskins fans have heard these lines before and will agree to take a wait-and-see approach. But from the outside looking in, at least, it looks as though the Redskins are committed to change – in culture, organizational structure and its approach to winning.

Whether or not those changes occur, only time will tell.

Just as many of his Redskins Park predecessors, Rivera has one goal in mind: to win a Super Bowl.

"The only reason you become a head coach in this league in my opinion is to win. That's it. That's the bottom line," Rivera said. "If you do it for any other reason, you're wrong. And that's what I want to do, and I really do. I'm not just saying it because I'm at a press conference, I say it because I truly believe that."

"I've been very fortunate. Football's been a big part of my life," he continued. "This is gonna be my 34th year in the league, so I've seen a lot, I've done a lot, and the one thing that I've had was I've had the success to be on the Super Bowl championship team. I would love to give these guys that opportunity so they know what it feels like, what the experience is when you're standings on the podium.

"That's what we want to work towards. We want to work towards that going forward, and I want our fans to know that's what we're gonna work for. I understand they're disgruntled, I understand they're upset and they deserve to be – we haven't won. So we've got to start winning. But I tell ya, if you give us the opportunity to get behind us, we're gonna give you our best effort. That's what we're gonna do as a football team."

What's certain is other esteemed head coaches – Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan and Gibbs – have walked up to the same podium with the same commitment to winning a championship. And every one has failed. What makes Rivera confident he can be the one to buck the trend?

"Well, nobody really knows, but I'll tell you this," Rivera said. "I believe in me and I'll bet on me."

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan