From day 1 of the Ron Rivera “coach-centric” era in Washington, there has been consistent emphasis put on the improvement of the culture. In all aspects of the football operation, Rivera’s stamp has been put on the Commanders. There’s no corner of the scouting, coaching, roster building, medical and training approach, or football operations that isn’t under his purview and, supposedly, influenced by his mentality. And to his credit, he’s brought a certain degree of respectability to an organization all-too-accurately panned as a disgraceful dumpster fire over the last three decades.
But some warts in that untouchable aura of Riverboat Ron have begun to show since the end of last season, and there’s reason for concern that maybe, just maybe, the changes that have been preached and touted with every bit of PR energy the organization can muster might simply not be real. Is Rivera practicing what he preaches? Is he leading by example? Off the field, it certainly seems so. Rivera seems to genuinely care about society’s ills. He and his wife Stephanie have gotten very involved in the community and Ron has spoken up about a variety of cultural topics that need attention from every possible platform.
But between the lines? Behind the post-game podium? In interview about the football program? There are glaring inconsistencies in Rivera’s recent words and actions that put the lie to what he’s said he wants the organization to be about.
Is Ron Rivera fostering a Commanders culture that lacks accountability?
Remember in that “Happy Thanksgiving” press conference when Ron Rivera promised his players (current and future) that if they did what they were asked to and had success, the players would get the credit – and if they did what they were asked to and failed, the coaches would take the blame? Remember when he promised accountability and competition at every spot? Remember when he guaranteed that the team would play hard and play for each other? Those all sounded great. But the reality is, the accountability seems to be limited to 1-2 scapegoat players per season and to a much-maligned defensive line coach unceremoniously let go during training camp.
Rivera conspicuously avoids taking any personal accountability or holding Jack Del Rio or high-profile veterans accountable for the team’s woeful performances. He’s quick to talk about injuries, call out media members for “getting it twisted”, and point to one or two players on any given play “not doing their job”. He’s condoned and participated in the public calling-out of second-year LB Jamin Davis for his inconsistent play, while conveniently overlooking the fact that he (and the front office he hand-picked) selected Davis in the first round of the 2021 Draft, mis-cast him as an MLB in his rookie season, failed to play him significant minutes to get him much needed reps toward the end of last season, failed to bring in legitimate competition at his position this offseason, and have left him in unreasonably exposed positions within the defense on a consistent basis. You can bet the locker room notices this. You can bet they don’t like this hypocrisy. Just look at Jamin Davis’ Instagram post on Monday…and the fact that several teammates liked it before he deleted it.
He even blamed “the math” for his out-of-touch choice to go for 2, down 8, after having already used up their best several goal-line offensive plays earlier in the game. Context is everything. Math is an excuse. #passingthebuck
Rivera defends “schematics” and coaching methods because he knows he’s responsible for those. He’s defensive when asked about roster construction, he’s snippy with reporters who question the lack of depth brought in at several extremely thin positions, and consistently deflects whenever given the opportunity to offer any type of self-reflecting or constructively critical evaluation of his own performance. #passingthebuck
Watch his Monday press conference. There’s an astonishing lack of “I” statements in his answers as to why the team has struggled defensively, why the offense has been so hot and cold and why they continue to have massive coverage busts, etc.
I like Rivera. It’s hard to imagine Snyder could have done better when Rivera was hired. But one of the downsides of the “coach-centric” approach is that coach is only accountable to Dan and Tanya, who are masters as passing the buck, currently (and perpetually) in no position to hold anyone’s feet to the fire on anything, and who have zero instinct to lead with humility, self-deprecation, and personal accountability. It’s fair to assume they don’t like their head coaching taking responsibility for anything…they probably see that as a positive show of strength.
Maybe it’s a blip on the radar. Maybe Ron will snap out of it, but it’s safe to say this team won’t turn things around from the extremely wobbly start to the season unless some legitimate introspection and honest evaluation of what needs to change starts happening throughout the football operation – and that has to start with the coach in a coach-centric operation. No passing the buck allowed.