Ron Rivera’s record is damning. Does Daniel Snyder care?
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He chose Carson Wentz as his quarterback to start the season and Carson Wentz as his quarterback with the season in the balance. Both decisions were defeated. He didn’t know that a loss on Sunday put his team in danger of being eliminated from playoff contention until his team lost and was in such danger. He mismanages his clock and his interceptions more than you’d like, and boldly said his team needed to take a step forward in his third year, only to have him firmly in neutral.
The punitive elements of Ron Rivera’s tenure as head coach of Washington’s NFL franchise have increased. In a normal city with a normal team at a normal time, firing him with two years left on a five-year deal would seem, well, normal.
But despite all the evidence, it’s hard to see that happening. This exclusivity is always defined and limited by its ownership. As the season closes with a meaningless game against Dallas, he is frozen out of it.
Daniel Snyder is, at least, exploring a sale of his commanders in Washington. Reporting by my Washington Post colleagues indicates that he is not courting minority stakeholders in an effort to move forward, but is seeking a clean break. NFL owners do not usually make their permanent residence in England. After two woefully unsuccessful decades as the owner of his hometown team, Snyder may be looking for a new lease on life. Fingers crossed.
Ownership uncertainty complicates a critical offseason for the Commanders
But for all the hope that a new owner – any new owner – can bring, the current Commanders seem paralyzed. If Snyder is really selling — and again, insert hand emoji here — then he has neither the interest nor the bandwidth to go through the interview process to hire what would be his 11th head coach, only to hand over that coach to a new owner.
The decision on whether Rivera should coach should be up to a new owner. More than that, the decision of who will be a replacement should belong to a new owner. Doesn’t this sound somewhat familiar? Oh okay. Because it is.
The Lerner family has been exploring a sale of its Washington nationals since at least April. This process extends over the entire franchise, handcuffing it. The signing of Dominic Smith to a one-year, $2 million deal was once a helpful move for a franchise that aimed to annually contend for championships. Now, with the parameters and personality of a rebuild perhaps shaped by new leadership, it is a quasi-center.
In the midst of this limbo, the Lerners did the only thing they could: They picked up the one-year options on general manager Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez, ensuring both would return — or at least get paid — for 2023. alternative? Let them go and spend the offseason both trying to sell the team and hire replacements. It is neither practical nor pleasant.
Citizens will say that their reconstruction process continues according to plan. And yes, prospects can develop (or not) regardless of who is in the owners suite. But a vision of what moves could be made next offseason or beyond — not to mention what could be afforded in terms of payroll? All of this is on pause, making the present less promising and the future unknown.
Which sounds like exactly what the Chiefs could be dealing with this offseason, unless a trade comes through before the start of free agency in mid-March and the draft in April. Rivera’s decision to start rookie Sam Howell in Week 18 — the only decision that made sense — makes final what was already clear: that Wentz, Rivera’s preferred choice at quarterback, is done here. He chose Wentz. Wentz played poorly. This is in Rivera, period.
The decision only adds to Rivera’s already impressive resume. Between his nine-year stint in Carolina and his three seasons in Washington, he has now officiated 189 NFL regular-season games and has a .519 winning percentage. Of the 42 men who have coached the most games, according to data at Pro Football Reference, only eight have won at a lower rate. This fact illustrates the obvious: To train for so long, you have to win.
Dig into those numbers a little deeper. Rivera’s ten seasons have ended with a winning record just three times, a rate of 25 percent. No one who has coached more games has a lower winning percentage — although Sam Wyche, who took the Cincinnati Bengals to a Super Bowl and later coached Tampa Bay, also went three for 12. Lovie Smith, Lou Saban, Jon Gruden, Norv Turner, Marvin Lewis, Weeb Ewbank and Jeff Fisher all coached more games than Rivera and won a lower percentage of them. But all seven of those coaches posted winning records more often.
What we have, then, is a documented record of mediocrity. After his hiring, Rivera represented a kind of steel-jawed stability. He brought a dignity the franchise desperately needed. He stood tall during his battle with cancer, setting an example and a standard. It was and is admirable.
But he does not win and has not won consistently. That didn’t happen in Carolina, where he was eventually fired by a new owner. It hasn’t happened in Washington, where he’s 21-27-1, won a division title with a losing record in Year 1 and had a playoff spot under his belt, but went 0-3-1 with a shutout. injured quarterback in the year. 3.
It’s cursed. But here it says that it will not be enough for a switch. Commanders are for sale, and that is the most important aspect of today and tomorrow and 10 years from now, when it may all seem like a mistake. The problem is this: It’s hard to see a path in which Rivera is the long-term architect of a consistent winner in Washington, and it’s hard to see him anywhere other than on the sidelines for the 2023 season opener.
This is a new kind of purgatory for Washington. The owner has long defined and hindered the franchise, and the opportunity to change it is more important. But coaching matters, too, and keeping Ron Rivera at this point feels more like jogging in place than a sprint forward.