How coaching legend Joe Gibbs assisted Ron Rivera in Commanders’ QB search
By Jerry Trotta
It’s difficult to put into words how important this offseason is for the Washington Commanders.
With a hole at quarterback the size of the District of Colombia (before the Carson Wentz trade, obviously) and needs at other prominent positions like linebacker, wide receiver and backup defensive tackle, the Commanders have a tiny margin for error this offseason.
While that pressure falls on the entire front office, it’s fair to say Ron Rivera is facing the most tension to perform.
Entering his third year as the team’s head coach and lead personnel decision-maker and having 14 total wins to show for it, it’s not crazy to think Rivera could be out of a job this time next year if Washington doesn’t show improvement.
Clearly aware of this offseason’s significance, Rivera didn’t shy away from seeking counsel in one of the most legendary NFL coaches of all time. He’s undoubtedly the most accomplished coach in Washington history. That much is certain.
You might know him. The name Joe Gibbs ring a bell?
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera confided in Joe Gibbs ahead of the team’s all-important offseason.
On top of reminiscing about the late John Madden, one of Gibbs’ former players at San Diego State, Gibbs and Rivera chopped it up about what the latter has done well and areas he needs to improve entering his third year at the helm.
"“One of the hardest things that I have found as a head coach is that people want to tell you what they think you want to hear as opposed to what you need to hear,” Rivera said in an interview with The Athletic’s Ben Standig.“We talked about all the stuff that went on. He (Gibbs) had an opinion on a lot of things, gave me some advice on a lot of things. Patted me on the back for some things and then chastised me for other things.”"
Out of respect for Gibbs, Rivera didn’t get into the specifics about what he discussed with the three-time Super Bowl champ. Like many of his conversations with Madden, though, Gibbs did equip Rivera with some “clarity.” Part of their discussion, though, revolved around the team’s quarterback search and Gibbs enlightened Rivera about what he looked for in a QB during his coaching career.
"“They talked about what Gibbs looked for in a quarterback, wrote ESPN’s John Keim. “Gibbs relayed how he loved Joe Theismann’s leadership, but his next two Super Bowl quarterbacks were bigger — Doug Williams and Mark Rypien.“One thing we talked about was size, so they had that ability to look over the top,” Rivera said. “If he’s shorter, you have to make sure they have great movement skills.”"
As a result, Rivera and Gibbs made a shortlist of eight QBs, which included Aaron Rodgers and the recently-traded Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson. They even pondered whether Andrew Luck would come out of retirement, but that conversation, as you might have expected, reached a dead end rather quickly.
After realizing that quartet of elite quarterbacks were pipe dreams, Gibbs and Rivera ultimately stumbled across Wentz, whom Keim notes didn’t come available until after the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.
We’ll unfortunately never know of the advice Gibbs offered to Rivera during their latest meeting outside of the QB search, but it couldn’t have been a long lecture given everything Rivera has accomplished thus far.
While the team currently lacks wins and (seemingly) a franchise QB under Rivera, its culture has been restored and it’s knocking on the door of becoming a contender. At the very least, the young core of Jonathan Allen, Terry McLaurin, Chase Young and Antonio Gibson has the franchise set up to enjoy sustained success.
Perhaps Gibbs’ pointers will help Rivera maximize what is undeniably one of Washington’s most talented rosters in recent memory. The fact the coaching legend had a hand in the QB search should help ease any questions fans have in terms of how and why the front office was drawn to Wentz.