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What’d he say? Ron Rivera talked about how values lead to winning

family, culture, character

Here’s what coach Rivera had to say on Thursday:

First of all we’ve got to make sure we get the right kind of players. Then, we as coaches got to make sure we teach them and coach them up to the best of our abilities. Then, we’ve got to stay true to it.

We’ve got to stay true to what I believe is a little bit of a philosophy, and that is: the best team has a great sense of family, the best family has great culture, and within that culture there’s tremendous character, and that’s what we’ve got to build.

We’ve got to build character, we’ve got to build culture, we’ve got to build team, we’ve got to build family. If we can do that, we can win.

I watched [Chiefs Head Coach] Andy [Reid’s] do that. I was on Andy’s original staff; my first five seasons were with him. I was on three straight NFC Championship games and that was tremendous. It was a heck of a feeling to be involved in those kinds of games.

The only reason you become a head coach in this league, in my opinion, is to win. That’s it, that’s the bottom line. If you do it for any other reason, you’re wrong.

I’ve been very fortunate that football has been a big part of my life. This is going to be my 34th year in the league, so I’ve seen a lot, I’ve done a lot and the one thing I’ve had was I’ve had the success to be on a Super Bowl championship team. I would love to give these guys that opportunity, so they know what it feels like, what the experience is when you’re standing on the podium.

We want to work towards that going forward and I want our fans to know that’s what we’re going to work for. I understand they’re disgruntled, I understand they’re upset, and they deserve to be. We haven’t won, so we’ve got to start winning.

But I tell you, if you give us the opportunity and get behind us, we’re going to give you our best effort. That’s what we’re going to do as a football team.

That’s what we want to get to, but the only way we can do it is if we truly do become a family.

When we step into the room or step out of a room, everybody has to be on the same page. When [Defensive Coordinator] Jack [Del Rio] puts the defense together, we can’t have one coach telling somebody something else as opposed to what Jack wants. That’s just the way it’s going to be. We want everybody focusing on what their job is.

I’ve got a little bit of a saying these guys are going to get tired of saying, but it’s true. ‘We need 11 guys doing one thing at a time, not one guy trying to do all 11.

Do your job, men, and we’ll have success. I promise you that.

In sports and at work, I’ve seen a characteristic common to the good coaches I played for and the good managers I’ve worked with. They each knew what they believed . They could each articulate it clearly and simply to those they coached or supervised. The message was simple, concrete, clear and constantly repeated.

As a teacher, I try to employ the same principles with students.

I see this at play here in Ron Rivera’s introductory press conference. He’s an experienced head coach with a clear vision of what leads to success.

In my earlier life, I was the Director of Human Resources for a large company for about five years. As such, I had philosophies and practices related to interviewing, and today, I teach interviewing skills to the university students I teach. One of the principles I believe in is to ask very open-ended questions of candidates, giving them little direction about the parameters of the answer you are looking for. If you ask people to just answer the question in whatever way it makes sense to them, you will learn a lot about their priorities, their habits and their work practices.

At his introductory press conference, Ron Rivera had total control over what he wanted to say. Unlike, say, a coach reacting to questions at the end of an emotional game, Ron had weeks to think about what ideas he would articulate on his first public appearance as the organization’s head coach.

Some coaches might’ve gotten up and talked about schemes — the X’s and O’s of football.

Some might’ve chosen to talk about the need for discipline and control, which he did to an extent.

Others might’ve stressed clear lines of authority in the building.

There’s no single right or wrong message in this situation. It is the first opportunity for the new head coach to communicate who he is and what he believes in.

Here are the things that struck me about Ron Rivera’s choice of message.

It was clear, it was simple, it was consistent and repeated.

The content of the message was a bit surprising. Sure, Ron talked about discipline up front and gave us the old, “Do your job” line at the end, there, but the heart of his message was elsewhere.

In defining his roadmap to success, Ron Rivera linked ideas that sound more like values discussed at a family counseling seminar than those that lay the foundation for success as a football team. He talked about family, culture and character; he linked the three ideas, but it was the sense of family that he made preeminent.

Beyond that, though, Ron showed a bit of old-school Lombardiism. The legendary Packers and Redskins coach is famous for his line, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing!” Rivera re-cast the words, but the idea is a throwback to the 1950’s and 60’s values of Lombardi: The only reason you become a head coach in this league is to win. That’s it, that’s the bottom line. If you do it for any other reason, you’re wrong.

Ron didn’t shy away from talking about super bowls and championships, either, which is something not everyone can get away with when talking to a fan base that hasn’t seen a 10-win season in over two decades.

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He reminded us all that he has a super bowl ring that he won as a linebacker for the Bears in Super Bowl XX. He talked about winning another with the Redskins. Not just a winning record; not just a division championship, but a super bowl trophy.

“If you do it for any other reason, you’re wrong.”

When a reporter asked what his main goal will be as the coach of the Washington Redskins, he was direct and unambiguous:

Main goal is to build a consistent winner and to win a Super Bowl. I know somebody said you shouldn’t say that. Well, I’m going to say it because I’m going to put it out there.


Big balls.

I like the message.

And, lest you think that Rivera is talking about a long road through a total organization and roster rebuild, think again.

I told [Dan Snyder] I didn’t want to go through a five-year rebuilding process because quite honestly, I don’t have the patience, and, from what I’ve read, neither does he. We understand that.

Coach Ron seems to feel that Washington offers a roster with talent to build on, meaning that the team can win quickly.

This team has some raw talent. It really truly does. It’s got some quality veteran leadership that can help this team become contenders. At the end of the day, guys, this is what the team’s going to be made of. It’s going to be made of good, quality, young football players and solid veteran leadership to help us take this football team to the next level.

Bottom line

This was my first time seeing Ron Rivera speak. He was a sharp contrast to Jay Gruden, who was quick with a smile and a quip. Rivera seemed to be all business, and, like the former linebacker that he is, gave off a sense of constrained intensity.

He has all the earmarks of a strong leader in his ability to deliver a clear and consistent message. His focus on wanting to hire a coaching staff that will excel as teachers seems very consistent with his approach and values. I imagine that Ron Rivera is, himself, an outstanding teacher, and relies on that more than on schemes or X’s and O’s for his success.

I also couldn’t help but notice that, in spite of being behind the microphone at a press conference, he tended to slip frequently into directly addressing the players in the room. You can see where his focus and his priorities are.

The elements of success that he focused on — family, culture, character — say a huge amount about what he will stress and how he will build a sense of team. Ron Rivera — and this is fully consistent with everything I’ve read about him previously — is all about the people.

Of course, his priority on winning is a constant among coaches, but his absolute unabashedness in talking about a Redskins superbowl trophy is welcome. He feels no need to apologize for anything. The bad culture and the losing, he seems to say, are in the recent past; great culture and winning are in the immediate future. The Redskins can replicate the glory years of Joe Gibbs, if they do things the right way.

Like many strong leaders, he believes that his way is the only way. He repeats the common mantra of “do your job”, which communicates again that the focus is not on fancy schemes, but on disciplined play and trusting your teammates.

And he predicts that the payoff is imminent — no five-year plans or roster rebuilds being sold here. Immediate turnaround in culture, immediate payoff in wins. And the collateral he offers for that prediction is himself:

I believe in me and I’ll bet on me. We’ll see what happens, that’s all I can tell you. I’m going to work very hard, I’m going to do the things that I believe, and I’m going to stay true to who I am.

My responsibility is to get the most out of the players. To work with them, teach them, mentor them. If I have to do it one by one, I most certainly will do it. I’ve done it in the past and I’ll do it again. I’ll do what I can to help these young men become not just the players we want, but the men in the community we need. These are the guys that can help change things. Not just on the football field, but in this world.

I don’t know about you, but I like the approach of our new coach, and I feel a sense of optimism that he is the right man for a difficult job.