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Ron Rivera’s mixed messages

Is Riverboat Ron handling his first off-season with the Redskins the right way?

Ron Rivera press conference David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

I want to look at Ron Rivera’s decision-making and messaging so far in 2020.

Since Coach Rivera has spoken to the press quite a bit since he’s been hired, I want to rely on his own words as much as I can.

Excerpt A - Attitude Adjustment

Speaking about Quinton Dunbar this week, here’s what Ron Rivera had to say:

“I think the biggest part in the Quinton Dunbar decision really was — after having met with him and having conversations — I just felt that, as the situation progressed, he was looking for something that we weren’t prepared to give, and that was a new contract.

He had a year left on his contract. We didn’t know him and just felt that because of that situation and circumstances – his agent and his attitude just didn’t seem to change — we just felt that we were going to move in another direction, so we decided to move on.

Ron is pretty clear here; Dunbar wanted a new contract and the coach wasn’t willing to give it to him.

I’m willing to go on record here to say that, while I understand and respect that a lot of people feel differently, I would have been happy to see Quinton get some additional financial recognition going into his final contract year for his contributions to the Redskins. Two years ago, the former UDFA could have been given an RFA tender; instead, the team gave him a three-year contract ‘extension’, paying Dunbar a bit more than he’d’ve gotten on the tender, and locking him up through his age-28 season.

At the time it happened, I was surprised that Dunbar signed the deal, thinking that the Redskins had done well to get him on that contract. I doubt there were very many starting CBs in the league in 2019 on a veteran contract playing for $3.5m per year.

No one has ever definitively said what Dunbar’s demands were this off-season (aside from negotiate or trade me), so I don’t know if they were reasonable.

Sports Illustrated said, “Dunbar was looking for a raise that was roughly double his 2020 salary and did not want an extension. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to stay in Washington long-term.” If Dunbar was indeed looking for a bump in pay to around $7m, I, for one, would have been happy enough to see him get it. The only argument I would have made against Dunbar would’ve been his history of games missed due to injury in his five seasons, but I would have been in favor of offering him extra money in the form of per-game bonuses of, say, $200k per game if he were healthy and active.

After he’d been traded away and the Redskins had signed Darby for what was initially reported to be $4m (OTC now reports it as a $3m contract inclusive of incentives) the former Redskin took to social media with a number of comments. One sarcasm-laced message read: “Great signing but I wasn’t worth the extra mill”, while another referred to Washington as “the organization that lies and makes excuse”.

In the end, we’ve got the coach saying this week that Dunbar and his agent were intransigent and asking for a new contract, Sports Illustrated saying in late March that the CB wanted to renegotiate his final year salary, and Dunbar, following his interaction with the new boss, Ron Rivera, taking public shots at the Redskins organization on social media in a fashion that ‘Skins fans became accustomed to under Bruce Allen.

Honestly, I’d expected to see the end of this kind of stuff when Bruce was fired and Ron was hired.

Excerpt B - Relationships

Much has been made of Ron Rivera’s relationships with players. We heard, when he was first hired, how many of his former players praised his relationship management and his focus on the person, not just the player.

In fact, it’s fair to say that my strongest impression of Rivera after he was hired by the Redskins was that he values personal relationships over almost anything else. One of the most impactful stories I read early on was about how often he brought his family to the practice field in hopes of being a good role model for the players.

On this basis, I understood the context in which he made certain comments about his reluctance to make concessions to Quinton Dunbar:

Again, as I said — not knowing players, not knowing how they fit or how they’re going to fit into your system — that’s kind of a tough thing to restructure somebody’s contract and give them a new deal. We just felt it was time to move on.”

The coach, who values personal relationships so highly, understandably didn’t want to make a greater financial commitment to a guy he hadn’t met and didn’t know. It is troubling, however, to wonder how much he trusts Kyle Smith and the Personnel staff if he makes comments about “not knowing players” or how those players “fit the system”. Surely, if Ron wanted to know these things, he’d just talk to Kyle Smith and his staff, who’ve spent the past 5 seasons with Dunbar.

But Rivera seems to want to personally evaluate everyone before making any commitments, which is starting to give me an uncomfortable feeling about what a “coach-centric” system means, exactly.

This was reinforced by a corollary example — the signing of 37-year-old linebacker Thomas Davis to a one-year, $3.7m contract. Here’s what Rivera said about that decision:

Bringing in a guy like Thomas Davis... I felt like there was a need for a guy that understands the culture that I wanted to develop up here. Thomas fit that, but Thomas is also very productive. I know him personally because he was on my football team in Carolina for eight seasons. I watched him last year with the Chargers. I thought he did an excellent job, still plays at a very high level. I thought he’d come in and help out with a little bit of that veteran leadership on the defensive side. They are a very young group of guys. But more so, more importantly for me is a guy that can help share my ideas, what my belief in culture is, and I think that can help get the message across.

Here, the aging Thomas Davis proves to be everything that Dunbar isn’t — a guy the coach knows personally; a guy who can help share the coach’s ideas and understands his belief in culture. Interestingly, Thomas Davis, at $3.7m has the highest 2020 cap hit of any free agent signed by the Redskins this off-season not originally drafted by the ‘Skins.

Okay. I get it now: you know the coach; you understand him and he trusts you — you get the contract you’re looking for. Everyone else gets a year to ‘prove it’. In any event, no long term commitments. If the player isn’t happy with that, the team is prepared to trade or release him.

Ron, it seems, is here to establish his authority and his “culture” in 2020 — every long term decision is on hold until 2021 until he personally gets eyes on the situation.

This is supported by nearly every free agent signing that we’ve seen.

“I want to sign a long-term deal with them, too. I love it there, and I’ve always said I wanted to be a Redskin for the rest of my career,” Scherff said in an interview published by on Friday. “So, hopefully we can work towards that.”

Good luck with that, Brandon. Apparently, Ron Rivera doesn’t do long term deals with guys he doesn’t know. Your 5-year history here doesn’t mean any more than Quinton Dunbar’s five years here did.

  • Sean Davis got a one-year, $3.5m deal
  • Logan Thomas signed for 2 years on a $3.1m APY contract
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis - one-year, $2.98m
  • Ronald Darby - one-year, $2.8m cap hit
  • Jon Bostic returns on a 2-year deal with $2.8m APY
  • Guard Wes Schweitzer got a 3-year deal worth $4.5m APY, but only $4m guaranteed, making it, in effect, a one-year contract for $4m with two option years.
  • Tackle Cornelius Lucas got a 2-year deal, but the total value is $3.8m (APY $1.9m)
  • RB J.D. McKissic signed for two years at $1.6m per year ($1m guaranteed)
  • RB Peyton Barber - two years, $1.5m APY ($600k guaranteed)
  • Nate Orchard re-signed on a vet minimum deal
  • TE Richard Rodgers signed on a vet minimum deal
  • ILB Jared Norris - one year, $840K
  • LG Jeremy Vujnovich - one year, $825K
  • Caleb Brantley re-signed - one year, $750K

The theme here is short-term, budget signings to build some roster depth.

Excerpt C - The Trade

Rivera talked about the trade of Quinton Dunbar.

His comments were very illuminating:

We felt good about the fact that we got what he was valued. Fair value for a college free agent player that came out and had played well. He played a limited number of snaps, unfortunately, because the injuries he’s had the last couple years. But that’s why we felt good about the value we got.

Rivera doesn’t describe the best player in Washington’s secondary from 2019. He doesn’t discuss the only legitimate starting cornerback on the roster. He doesn’t talk about the guy who earned the 2nd highest PFF rating among all NFL CBs in the 2019 season.

Here’s how Ron describes Quinton:

A college free agent player who saw a limited number of snaps due to injuries.

He says that is why he feels the Redskins got good value for Quinton Dunbar.

The only way I feel good about this is if Kyle Smith and the personnel people at Redskins Park were telling Rivera that Dunbar was an over-rated oft-injured problem child. That would be encouraging.

If Ron Rivera really pushed Quinton Dunbar out the door because, as Rivera himself said, he wasn’t drafted, Ron wasn’t personally acquainted with him, and he couldn’t figure out how Dunbar would fit in his system, I’d be very disappointed.

Excerpt D - Coachspeak

But Ron also said this about Quinton Dunbar this week:

We believe he’s a quality football player and wanted him to be here.

Yeah; this isn’t true.

Ron Rivera seems to be a lot more open and honest than Bruce Allen ever was, and it appears that you can take most of what he says at face value.

That’s not the case here, though.

In the end, GM Rivera and Coach Rivera agreed that getting a 5th round pick from the Seahawks in this month’s draft represented “good value” for a frequently injured former undrafted college free agent receiver-turned-defensive back.

If Ron had really wanted Dunbar here, he’d be here.

If Coach Rivera and GM Rivera had agreed that Dunbar was a quality player who could be relied upon to be healthy, on the field and contributing at a high level, they’d have found a way to keep him.

How do I know this?

Well, I’m convinced by the contract given to Kendall Fuller.

Fuller is a 25-year-old cornerback who just returned to the Redskins on a 4-year, $40m contract with $13.5m guaranteed at signing and $23.5m in total guarantees over the life of the contract. The only way Fuller earns less than $23m on this contract is if the Redskins cut him before free agency starts next year.

Fuller was injured for part of 2018 and played just 11 games in 2019. Dunbar was injured for part of 2018 and played just 11 games in 2019. Fuller is 2 years younger and has more positional flexibility, but Dunbar earned higher PFF grades in 2019. In my view, if the Redskins had offered Dunbar the $10m per year they offered Fuller, then Dunbar would not have insisted on the trade that sent him to Seattle this off-season.

That screams a clear message to me — the Redskins really wanted Kendall Fuller to be here, but, despite what Rivera said this week, they didn’t really want Dunbar.

If they’d wanted him, they’d have treated him the way they treated Kendall Fuller, and they wouldn’t have felt as if getting a 5th round pick in return represented “good value.”

Rivera was glad to have Dunbar gone. He proved that with his comments the former Redskins defensive back after he’d been traded away:

his agent and his attitude just didn’t seem to change

“not knowing players, not knowing how they fit or how they’re going to fit into your system” (By the way, this is pretty laughable if you think about it... RR and JDR couldn’t, between them, figure out how Quinton Dunbar would fit into their system?)

a college free agent player”

“a limited number of snaps”

“the injuries”

“that’s why we felt good about the value we got”

This is not-so-passive aggression from the new boss talking about a guy he traded away for a 5th-round pick. Rivera is sniping at Dunbar’s heels on the way out the door — something that greatly surprises me given all the things I’ve heard about Rivera as a great relationship builder.

With his early public comments, Ron is certainly trying to establish himself and send some messages through the media. And it’s not the firrst time; after all, we’ve seen him send some really eyebrow raising messages about Dayne Haskins, starting from his introductory press conference.

Related: What did Ron Rivera say about Dwayne Haskins on Thursday?

Dwayne Haskins and the QB competition

A week ago, Rivera was asked about his two young quarterbacks, and he didn’t mention Haskins’ name in his answer:

“I think it will be a good competition I really do, mostly because having been around Kyle for two seasons I’ve kind of watched him interact with the quarterbacks that were in the room. You know he was in the room with a very strong personality in Cam Newton and Kyle handled himself tremendously. And we had Taylor Heinicke and he was Taylor’s understudy. I just know what kind of person he is, and just feel that he’s the kind of guy that’s going to go into this, he’s not threatened by anything. What he’s really concerned about is doing the best job he can and if he ends up starting and being the guy, great, he’ll be fired up about it. And if he’s not, he’s in the backup role, he’ll be fired up about that as well. I mean he’s the right kind of person for that room and that’s what I felt really strongly about and that’s why we were able to make the deal with Carolina to bring him in. He’s got that real good sense about him, that being part of something is better than being an individual.”

Like Thomas Davis, Rivera is full of praise for Kyle Allen, who is “the right kind of person”. Once again, Rivera puts a huge amount of stock in his personal experience with the player (“I just know what kind of person he is”).

Again, by completely disregarding Dwayne Haskins in his answer to the reporter’s question about the two players, Rivera is sending some passive-aggressive messages through his statements to the media.

But what messages is he really trying to send?

The title of this article refers to Rivera’s “mixed messages”. Why does it say that?

Well, l’ve focused a lot on Quinton Dunbar in this article because Rivera has been very vocal about the decision-making there. Having written about Rivera’s comments on Dwayne Haskins before, I mentioned them here again because there’s been a lot of focus on the young quarterback and the challenges he faces this season, but there are other roster situations that the Redskins face; one of the most visible for the past year or so has been that of Trent Williams.

The Redskins Pro-Bowl Left Tackle

A news report on Feb 3 quoted Ron Rivera on the TW situation:

“We got to get Trent in, we got to sit him down, see where he is, see how he is, healthwise too. We have not really had the contact we need to have to know,”

“He’s still our guy.”

At the time, this was widely interpreted as a huge uptick in the possibility of Trent returning to the Redskins. I, myself, felt a surge of hope that Ron might be just the medicine needed to sort out the mess that Bruce had created. Ron Rivera seemed to be making a pubic commitment to trying to work things out with Williams, and, given all we were hearing about his skills at communications and relationship building — the anti-Bruce Allen, if you will — this seemed to raise expectations that the new guy in charge just might salvage and ugly situation.

But as I look at Coach Rivera’s January comments now, in the light of subsequent events, I’m seeing similar messages here to the Quinton Dunbar comments — we like him, but I don’t know him, so I need to talk to him and learn about him.

That all seemed reasonable, but Ron doesn’t seem to have made much of an effort to re-build the burnt bridge between Williams and the franchise. There were reports of the Redskins shopping Trent unsuccessfully at the Combine, and then giving Williams permission to seek a trade soon after.

In March, Trent’s agent went full blast in the media, blaming the Redskins for making any trades impossible. He pointed, in fact, to the Dunbar trade to show the Redskins’ willingness to part ways with a publicly disgruntled player.

Of course, the Redskins value Trent Williams very differently from Dunbar. He was a first round pick, not a UDFA; he is a multi-year Pro Bowler. The team isn’t going to willingly trade him for a fifth-round pick, and they certainly aren’t going to release him as Vince Taylor so obtusely suggested.

But, it was surprising to hear Taylor say that the contact between the new head coach and the team’s star Left Tackle had been limited to a single 5-minute phone conversation, which the agent characterized as having left his client, Trent Williams, feeling distanced and unhappy.

Let me be clear: I thought the outburst by Trent’s agent, Vince Taylor, was unprofessional and poorly managed. I think he’s doing a disservice to his client and I thought he was clumsily and unsuccessfully trying to “spin” the situation via the media. But, while I thought he was often disingenuous in his presentation, I didn’t feel that he was actually lying. So, when I heard him declare that Rivera’s contact with Trent had been limited to a single short phone conversation, I was disconcerted.

These are surprising reports — almost unbelievable — to hear about Ron Rivera, the man touted as being such a great relationship-builder. But patterns seem to be emerging with Redskins players like Dunbar, Haskins and Williams, and with former Panthers like Thomas Davis and Kyle Allen.

Rivera trusts his own judgement, and has a lot of faith in what he knows about a man he’s been able to look in the eye and work with. Not so much with other people.

Rivera himself hasn’t had a lot to say about his dealings with Trent since proclaiming in early February that “he’s still our guy,” but he was asked about the situation with Williams this week, and his comments were a bit generic:

During this process, we’ve had several conversations with both Trent and his agent. He is a player under contract. He is a Washington Redskin, and we’re going to leave it at that and just see how things unfold.”

There’s that passive-aggressive nature coming out again. As with Quinton Dunbar and his social media rants, Ron isn’t gonna just sit back and let Trent’s agent throw shit against the wall and watch it stick.

Here is a direct refutation — “We’ve had several conversations with both Trent and his agent”

And the low-key threat:

“He is a player under contract”

Ron, the “relationship-builder” is back in the business of sending messages through the media. Once again, we’ve got one message from Ron Rivera, a different message from another source, and a disgruntled player asking for trade or release.

Frankly, this isn’t what I expected when Ron Rivera was hired in January.

But — I can hear you thinking — what does that have to do with mixed messages? Where is the confusion or inconsistency?

Well, let’s look at what Ron’s messaging (both explicit and implicit) has been:

  • If he doesn’t know you, he’s not making a long term commitment to you.
  • If he doesn’t know you, he doesn’t yet know how you will fit in his system.
  • The Redskins aren’t making big financial commitments to anyone right now.
  • Until Ron gets his culture established, no moves are being made on core roster spots.

Of course, he made that commitment to Kendall Fuller, but that was an exception — after all, Fuller was drafted by the Redskins. We’re just bringing him home.

Yeah... I guess.

But then there’s Amari Cooper.

The pursuit of Amari Cooper

The Redskins chased Cooper hard — and Rivera was clear that the team wanted him; this wasn’t just some ploy to drive up the price for the Cowboys to re-sign the receiver.

“Amari was someone that we chased very hard all the way up to the very end,” Rivera said. “He decided to return to Dallas. We were in it and we were talking about the substantial money. But at the end of the day, he made a decision he felt was best for him and we respect it.”

There were credible reports in March that the Redskins actually offered more money to Cooper than the Cowboys did. The ‘Skins were “all in” on signing him. Nothing in Rivera’s comments above refute that. It seems that he really wanted to sign the receiver to a top-of-the-market contract.

But this is at odds with everything else Rivera has been communicating publicly.

How could he make a commitment like this to a former Raider and Cowboy? After all, Rivera has never coached him. He doesn’t know him, and, unlike Dunbar and Williams, Cooper hasn’t been in the Redskins building for years, so the personnel guys don’t know him either.

How could Rivera project how Cooper would fit into his system when he couldn’t figure out how Dunbar fits?

I haven’t seen any reports about the number of years the Redskins offered Cooper (Dallas gave him a 5-year contract) — only that the offer would have paid him “Julio Jones money”.

The suggestion from a number of people is that the Redskins offered Cooper a 5-year contract worth around $110m — possibly more. If true, why would Rivera be willing to make this kind of long-term commitment to Cooper as a free agent when his approach to everyone else has been short-term?

That question troubles me.

And one other thing troubles me.

No five-year plan

In his introductory press conference back in January, Coach Rivera was very specific about the desire to win sooner rather than later.

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 read, neither does he. We understand that.

While the Redskins have had the kind of off-season so far that will allow them to focus on the best player available for most of this month’s draft picks, this certainly wasn’t a ‘win now’ free agent class.

I can think of only two possible ways to explain what I’ve seen so far from Ron Rivera:

The first possibility

The first possibility is that Ron went into free agency frenzy with two high-priority targets — Amari Cooper and Austin Hooper. When they failed to sign either player, Rivera looked at the roster, looked at the draft opportunities and said to himself, “Without these two guys, I can’t plug enough holes in the roster with the draft capital we have. The best opportunity is to draft BPA in April, and come back loaded for bear in the 2021 off-season.”

This could be the case, but Rivera’s comments about the two players make it sound as though he simply fell in love with Cooper; not so much with Hooper.

We would’ve loved to have [Amari Cooper] as part of what we’re trying to do. We believe he would’ve been a great veteran presence in the room, especially for those young guys that played last year and had success with this football team. We would’ve felt good about having a veteran guy like that who’s had success in this league as part of what you’re trying to do. The Austin Hooper thing is we really weren’t in it as much as it’s been portrayed by a lot of people. The truth of the matter is he set the market as far as tight ends were concerned, and that’s something we most certainly weren’t prepared to do. We wanted to get into it, but again, once that money climbed very high and very quickly for him and good for him, we decided to move on.

So, I don’t think the first possibility is really one that flies.

The second possibility

The second possibility is the one I believe.

In this version of events, Rivera always perceived this year (2020) as a “lost” season in which team couldn’t compete for a playoff spot. Better, he may have thought, to keep his powder dry and enter 2021 with a full salary cap account and a full slate of draft picks, focusing not on a one-year rescue, but a solid 2 to 3-year turnaround. Use this 2020 season to build roster depth and instill a culture. Fill the team with talent next off-season.

In this view of Ron’s world, I wonder if the Redskins offer to Amari Cooper might have been a shorter-term offer of, say, 3 years, $66m and the ability to get out after a season or two if Cooper didn’t turn out to be all they imagined he’d be. Just a thought...

I think Ron has given us plenty of reason to believe a 3-year plan, with an uncompetitive team in 2020, is actually where his head is at.

As we develop and grow, it’s not going to happen overnight. That’s one of the things that we feel we have — more time to be patient and develop these guys.

A lot of these [veteran free agents signed to short-term contracts] want to come in and say, ‘Hey give me an opportunity to compete, let me prove myself.’ Then, we’ll see, which I think is great. I love that guys are betting on themselves, that they’re going to come in and prove that they belong, that they deserve an extended contract. So again, that’s what we’re trying to do is find out who fits us. A lot of these guys are up for the challenge, so I’m pretty excited about that. Sometimes, you need to fill the void. By bringing in some of the guys that we have, we’ve filled the void, but we’ve also felt that these guys are going to come in and compete, they want to compete so I’m excited, I really am. I’m excited about the guys that have decided to come and be a part of what we’re trying to build.”

The truth of the matter is there is no time frame, there really isn’t, but I do know that it’s got to happen soon, I can tell you that much. I understand I get that part of it. But it’s not going to happen overnight. We need everybody to come in and understand what the vision is and they’ve got to buy in to what the vision is going to be. Once they’ve done that, it gives us an opportunity to be successful.

We also need to have the fans get behind us. It’s one of the things that I was very fortunate to happen for us when we were in Carolina. Our first two years we showed promise. We gave fans a reason to come out and cheer for us. And then by our third season things turned around and really were headed in the right direction.

But I will say this too – in my first three years I made a lot of mistakes as a head coach. I mean I was a first-time head coach and I made mistakes. And I think that was part of the growing process. I’d like to believe now that I know and I’d like to believe that I’m not going to repeat and make those mistakes, so hopefully like I said it’ll happen in an expeditious manner, in terms of being successful on the football field. But I’m excited about it, I like the young, core players that this team has added in the last three drafts, would like to add a few more to that core, and then get them on the football field and see what happens.”

Coach Rivera is asking for a lot from Redskins fans. Despite assurances at his opening press conference that he doesn’t have the patience for a 5-year rebuild, he wants us to be patient while he spends two or three seasons putting together a winner.

He goes on to point to the experience he had in Carolina as a sort of challenge for Redskins fans to be as supportive and positive as Panthers fans were. The implication is clear — we’re not good fans if we don’t have the patience to wait for him to build his “family” in DC.

Good luck with that.

He does throw the fan base a bone in the form of the idea that he’s a more experienced coach who can hopefully achieve results faster than when he was a rookie head coach, but his comments also throw a ton of cold water on any hope of the Redskins competing for a a division title or a spot in the playoffs this season, and his moves in the 2020 free agency support that view.

Rivera might as well have taken out a billboard on the Beltway — the Redskins aren’t competing for a playoff spot in 2020. This off-season represents a “holding action”. Rivera is hitting the “pause” button on the hopes of all Redskins fans while he burns up a season getting comfortable and instilling his “culture” in Ashburn.

This is a roster that is set to be completely re-built in 2021, when at least twenty — and possibly more — players from the expected 2020 53-man roster have expiring contracts. The Redskins will go into the 2021 offseason with 7 draft picks (likely near the top of each round) and an estimated $87m in cap space).

Ron took all of his eggs out of the 2020 basket, figuring that he couldn’t build a winning roster here in one off-season anyway, and put them all in the 2021 (really, the 2022) basket.

Ron Rivera clearly isn’t “all in for 2020.”

A third possibility?

Of course, I guess a third possibility exists. It could be that Ron Rivera really believes what he said back in January when he took the job:

I told [Dan Snyder] 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. So you know what he said? He said, ‘Coach, I want this to be the last job you ever have in the NFL. I want you to go from coaching the Redskins, to collecting social security.’ I turn 58 next week, so I’m getting close. But that sounded pretty good to me.

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. That’s what I want to do and I really do. I’m not just saying it because I’m at a press conference, I’m saying it because I truly believe it.

[My] 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.

It’s about the players. If you’ve got players that are right, players that are where they need to be, players doing the things that they can do, you give yourself a chance to win.

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

Maybe I’m shortchanging Riverboat Ron and his belief in what he can accomplish, and accomplish quickly. He’s talking Super Bowls while I’m thinking 5-11.

Maybe I just don’t understand what he’s saying, but I find Ron Rivera’s messaging inconsistent and confusing. And his free agency moves don’t look like those of head coach who expects to compete for the playoffs this season, despite his assurance that the only reason you become a head coach in this league is to win. Ron isn’t making the moves of a guy who expects to win this year.

One clear message

In the end, I think he’s only really given us one clear, unambiguous message that remains unpolluted from the first press conference to the most recent:

You’re not going to play for this team, you’re not going to work for this team, if you don’t have the discipline to give us everything you have. No exceptions, no excuses.

There’s one, consistent message in everything I’ve seen and heard from Ron Rivera so far:

It’s my way or the highway.

In the end, I think that is the only real explanation for what I’ve seen.