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I Don’t Think Coach Ron Rivera Cares About Player Ratings

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NFL: Washington Football Team Rookie Minicamp Scott Taetsch-USA TODAY Sports

Much ado has been made (about nothing), over Pro Football Focus rating on this sight both in the past and present. I have always been one who is very skeptical of these ratings - as I watched a man named Gordon McGinness in 2013 name Washington center Will Montgomery as a “Secret Superstar”.

Now, anyone with a pulse and a set of semi-working eyes, could have seen Montgomery struggle mightily at center during his tenure with Washington, as he could often been seen getting walked into the backfield on zone runs, and “Martined” into the pocket in pass pro. Yet, despite the visual evidence, a writer named Khaled Elsayed from PFF put him on the All-NFC East team to end the 2012 season.

This “Secret Superstar”, who started 16 games at center in 2013 after signing a four year 12 million dollar contract in 2012, was so “effective” he was released on March 14th 2014, and signed a one year deal to be a backup for the Broncos a few weeks later.

This is just one of many example I can point to that never told the entire story with PFF and their ratings - especially on the offensive line. And it’s not only PFF. Others, like Football Outsiders also dive into analytics to help determine player ratings.

As of late, I have come to be much more appreciative of their work - partly because of a major change in the individuals they hire to do their grades, and partially as I have a friend I met over social media who does work for them; and we often bounce ideas off of each other during the season. Having said that, even their analysts will tell you their rating are completely subjective and are used as “another piece” to help fans gauge value.

From a fan perspective (and I have been guilty of this too in the past), analytics like those from PFF and Football Outsiders are convenient depending on how it supports their argument.

When it comes to coaches, many dismiss player ratings done by a third party - not just those generated by PFF or Football Outsiders.

The great Bill Belichick has even admitted that there are times where even he has no idea, when scouting an opponent, what certain players responsibilities were, as they can change from pre to post snap.

“Bill Belichick admitted that when he’s studying the film of an opponent, even he has limitations in knowing what each player was and was not supposed to do on any given play. During games, Belichick may not even know the correct responsibilities for his own players, because they could change their coverage before the snap.”

For Washington Coach Ron Rivera, who tends to be a bit more Old School in his approach to the game, analytics from third party rating services don’t seem to weight heavily on his mind when evaluating players.

Let’s look at offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas, who Ron signed to a two year $3.8M contract last offseason.

The soon-to-be 30 year old journeyman tackle (he’s been with five different teams during his seven year career), came on in place of an injured and ineffective Geron Christian and started the final eight games of the season for Washington. He posted a PFF grade of 78.9 (22nd overall of qualifying tackles), and was an obvious upgrade to the human turnstile Christian.

Despite solid play at left tackle in the second half of the season, Rivera and staff knew they needed to upgrade the offensive tackle position. They drafted Texas left tackle Sam Cosmi in round two, and shortly after the draft signed Bears’ castoff Charles Leno Jr. With only a few months difference in age between Leno and Lucas (both will turn 30 this year), it’s being reported that Leno was signed to start on the left side, relegating Lucas to either right tackle, or swing tackle. Now, what’s interesting is that for the 2020 season, Leno, who started all 16 games at left tackle for the Bears, had a lower rating according to PFF (74.9), when compared to Lucas.

Another example of this is at safety, where Jeremy Reaves filled in for multiple injured and ineffective players in 2020. Fans of the underdog are quick to point out his 2020 PFF rating of 81.2 - however that was only a small sample size over just three starts, and his playoff games against Tampa Bay was not good. Yet when the ratings support their argument for giving Reaves a chance to head into this season as the starter, the grade is brought up quite often.

I believe coach Rivera and staff see things a bit differently however.

Despite a solid grade over three regular season starts for Reaves, Ron signed former Dolphins free safety and captain Bobby McCain to a one-year deal, and he’s projected to take over the free safety spot for the team in 2021. Want to hear the kicker? McCain was rated a 63.6 for his 2020 performance by PFF. Despite the lower rating, there are VERY few who would claim McCain is not a significant upgrade over Deshazor Everett, Troy Apke and Jeremy Reaves on the back end. The Football Team also used a fifth round pick on Cincinnati free safety Darrick Forrest. Now, we can’t read too much into the selection of a fifth rounder with upside who will likely begin his career on special teams, but it is worth noting that the staff was probably not comfortable with the trio of Everett, Apke and Reaves heading into training camp.

This week, Washington cut long-time starting right tackle Morgan Moses. The former third round pick, who turned 30 in March, was coming off a season that saw him garner the highest PFF grade of his career (80.6). His 2021 cap hit was a manageable $9.6M, and it was just $7.75M for 2022. Despite this, Rivera saw things differently.

It was reported that the team did not select Sam Cosmi to sit, and once Leno was signed to take over on the left side, it was evident that Cosmi would at least be able to compete for a spot on the right.

Many fans took to social media to voice their displeasure about the move, and of course, many cited Moses’ PFF ratings to support their argument. Yet, it all falls on deaf ears because Rivera and John Matsko really don’t seem to follow the ratings...nor care.

In conclusion, Ron has a plan here; and it’s a plan for sustained success. Some may not agree how the team goes about their business, but this just goes to show how fans view things differs from how coaches view things.

All we can really do is sit back, enjoy the ride, and TRUST THE PROCESS!