Washington Football Team: Important to be patient with Ron Rivera

Washington HC Ron Rivera (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Washington HC Ron Rivera (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

The Washington Football Team has finally hit the bye week, and it could not have come soon enough.

Washington has scuffled much of the last month, dropping their last four games before the bye, pinning the Football Team in the cellar of the NFC East. In those four games, Washington has been plagued by offensive inconsistencies, and though the defense has been better in spurts, the inability to execute on key downs and in key situations have proven to be their downfall.

The Washington Football Team has managed to lose winnable games, make questionable personnel decisions and continue to be a disappointment for one of the NFL’s most passionate fanbases.

Though there is some deserved criticism for the new regime, we have to be realistic about where Washington is as a team.

When Ron Rivera signed on to lead the Football Team in its new chapter as a franchise, he made it clear that the first task at hand was to change the culture in Washington. Considering everything that has transpired in the Dan Snyder-era, a cultural change would take time.

In just his first two years as head coach, Rivera has had to withstand the team’s rebranding, the Washington Post’s article outlining sexual misconduct allegations from 15 former team employees, his own battle with cancer, the Dwayne Haskins saga, the findings from the NFL’s investigation into Washington’s workplace misconduct, the poorly timed Sean Taylor jersey retirement, and much, much more.

Since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, there have been 20+ years of toxic workplace culture, zero accountability within the organization and constant drama. This all cannot be undone in just under two years.

Despite all of the drama and controversy, in just under two years since taking over, Rivera has coached the Football Team to a 9-15 record and one NFC East title.

When you look at Rivera’s tenure in Carolina, it should give Washington fans even more reason to be patient. Rivera was hired into a situation where he had the reigning first overall pick in quarterback Cam Newton, as well as one of the best running back duos in the league in Jonathan Stewart and DeAngelo Williams.

Despite having his franchise quarterback from day one and some offensive firepower, it wasn’t until Rivera’s third year as head coach that the Panthers would achieve a winning record. Carolina would finish 12-4 that season, beginning a streak of three straight NFC South division crowns  championships. In the following season, the Panthers won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record and even won a playoff game. Rivera would cap off this run the next season, leading the Panthers to a 15-1 record that would culminate in a Super Bowl appearance.

When you compare Rivera’s run in Carolina with the beginning of his tenure in Washington, you can easily see that it takes time to build a perennial contender. The Washington Football Team has not been a perennial contender in upwards of 30 years, so to expect this team to be one of the league’s best in just under two years is unrealistic.

Rivera deserves the fans’ patience, however, he has made some questionable decisions in Washington. Most recently is the decision to cut Dustin Hopkins and sign Chris Blewitt at kicker. In just two games since Blewitt has assumed kicking duties, it’s clear Rivera may have jumped the gun on this decision.

There have also been questions surrounding Rivera’s coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has been on the hot seat for what has felt like all season long, while offensive coordinator Scott Turner is trying to make do with a below average quarterback and minimal offensive weapons. The Washington defense has the potential to be one of the best units in the NFL, so the criticism falls on Del Rio’s shoulders, but there needs to come a point where the coaches are held accountable.

It is impossible to please everyone, especially in this fan base, but it’s evident that Rivera has attempted to send a message to his underperforming team.

There are pockets of the fanbase who are already calling for Rivera’s head in Washington, though this is just an irrational overreaction. Take this last offseason for example.

Washington signs its placeholder, transitional quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, but he gets hurt in Week 1, sending Taylor Heinicke back into the starting role. The Football Team also acquired one of the best free agent playmakers on the market in Curtis Samuel, yet he has been absent essentially all season. Washington also acquired former first-round cornerback William Jackson III, but he has underperformed in the first half of the season.

Take a look at Carolina’s run with Rivera. The Panthers didn’t start winning until Year 3, they regressed in year 4 (albeit they still won their division), and Year 5 resulted in a 15-1 record en route to Super Bowl 50.

As Washington hits the bye week, it appears as if they’ve regressed in Year 2 under Rivera’s tutelage, and though things have clearly not gone as planned, it is not time to give up on Rivera just yet.

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