This team has a storied and successful history. It has one of the most talented receivers in all of football. It has an underrated offensive line. It has a knicked-up young running back and an exciting gunslinger of a QB who has struggled at points this season. It has a very successful and respected defensive coordinator presiding over a defense with quite a few big-name stars, but ranking near the bottom of the league in most statistical categories this season. It has one of the most universally respected and liked coaches in all of football. Ultimately, it has a disappointing 2-3 record this season. And this week, they’re coming in to face a Washington Football Team who checks all the same boxes.
The only difference is, nobody doubts Kansas City’s ability to get their season turned around, while even Washington’s head coach and grand Poobah of Football, Ron Rivera, has waved the white flag on this season and shifted to the “it’s about development” narrative. The back seven of his defense has looked to be playing at about 3/4 speed throughout the last three games…they’re in a fog. Whether it’s confusion or disunity or disillusionment or some combination of all three, all signs point to a season on the brink.
The Washington Football Team entered the season with extremely high expectations being communicated from within their ranks, as well as in many quarters both locally and nationally. And while Ron Rivera hinted at the need to temper expectations and not get ahead of themselves, there is no doubt he had high aspirations for this group as well. You need look no further than the choice to sign and start Ryan Fitzpatrick rather than prioritizing reps for Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen to understand his mindset. But you can look further. The choice to start Jon Bostic over Jamin Davis, or Landon Collins over Kam Curl, or Adam Humphries over Dax Milne all indicate a “win-now” prioritization over a developmental approach.
But 5 weeks into the season, the language is shifting. Though his team is not particularly young, he’s bristling at the idea that they aren’t living up to expectations, and trying to convince fans and media members alike that development, not winning, is the priority this year.
You should be insulted. Ron Rivera is telling you he thinks you’re an idiot. He’s telling you that he thinks you don’t know better than to take his word for it that they are just focused on development and not worried about the results quite yet.
For five weeks of post-game press conferences, Rivera has talked about being disappointed because he knew they could do better, knew they should be more competitive, wished they would have seized the opportunities in games they could have won at least stayed in. Then, in his Monday and Tuesday press briefings and interviews, he suddenly changed this tune to “growth and development”. We’ll see if his decision-making matches his rhetoric…or if he’s just searching for way to lower expectations. Get ready for a “coach-centric” version of Washington Football Team Reality Checks.