It’s not uncommon at this time of year, the six weeks between the end of minicamp and the start of training camp, to look beyond your own team for football discussions, and Bleeding Green Nation is no different from anyone else. This week they published a poll in which they asked readers to vote on the question: “Who deserves to be the All-NFC East head coach?”
The results were overwhelming.
As you can see, Ron Rivera, head coach of the Washington Football Team got 78% of the vote. Keep in mind two things. First, this wasn’t a small sample poll of 64 guys; there were 1,846 votes in this poll. Second, the voters in this poll are all die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fans. These are the guys that are reading about football and voting in polls in early June. They care about the NFL and they love the Eagles.
In a way, the overall respect level for Ron Rivera shouldn’t come as a surprise (though the disrespect shown to Mike McCarthy, the Cowboys head coach, is pretty awesome). Rivera came into Washington under possibly the worst conditions imaginable, and has, in the space of less than 18 months, completely remade the franchise.
Consider for a moment some of the challenges he faced. First of all, he inherited Dwayne Haskins, personally chosen by the team’s owner as the quarterback of the future. Not long after he took the job, COVID began to rear its ugly head, and in his first season in DC, he was coaching a team that he couldn’t really meet face to face. He also had to make roster decisions on players he had never coached without the benefit of any preseason games. That was true for a bunch of other newly hired NFL coaches, and isn’t really what sets Ron’s challenges apart from others.
Of course, around this time last year, the owner made the decision that the franchise would stop being the Washington Redskins and become, temporarily, the Washington Football Team. With no team President or GM at that time, and Dan Snyder avoiding the media as he has for years, Rivera was left to act as the front man for the franchise he had joined less than 6 months earlier. In the franchise’s new “coach centric” organization, Ron was the face of the franchise, and, suddenly, instead of being asked to talk about the recently drafted rookies or plans for training camp, he was being asked to explain his views on the owner’s decision and what the map was for the way forward.
Related delusional editorial commentary from Blogging the Boys:
Opinion: Mike McCarthy edges out Ron Rivera as the best head coach in the NFC East
But the name change wasn’t the only distraction. The Washington Post published a series of articles exposing decades-long allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace that led to the departure of several long-time senior staff and executives of the organization, and, once again, Rivera was the only guy answering questions on behalf of the franchise. It had to be frustrating to have to explain a past that he’d had nothing to do with at the same time that he was working to do one thing above all — change the culture of the organization. It’s surprising he had time left over to actually, you know, coach.
I think it’s obvious that no one deserves more credit for what’s been accomplished so far than Ron Rivera. I’ll go a step further; I’m not sure that you could find a half-dozen people in the NFL who would have been capable of what Rivera has done in the past eighteen months in the circumstances he was faced with.
Oh yeah — I forgot to mention. Ron Rivera was diagnosed with cancer early last summer, and he managed to meet all of these challenges while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
If you take a moment to evaluate how different the current Washington Football Team is from the Redskins organization that Rivera was hired to coach, it seems hard to believe. I don’t know if any NFL franchise has ever undergone as much foundational change as this one has in as short a time period.
The front office has been reorganized. Washington has a new team president in Jason Wright, a new General Manager in Martin Mayhew and a totally reorganized personnel department. The Head Trainer has been replaced, there is a new coaching staff, and the roster has been almost completely remade. In 2019, the team won 3 games, finished last in the division and “earned” the second overall pick in the draft. In 2020, Washington won the division title and gave the eventual super bowl champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, their toughest playoff test. There have been many more changes, but those are a few of the highlights.
Best coach in the NFC East? Damned right — and it’s not close.
Now that Rivera has had time to put together the front office and coaching staff that he wants, and now that he has substantially molded the roster into his vision of a winning football team (I think he needs one more offseason before he has “his” roster), expectations should be climbing even higher for the head coach.
Certainly, the team needs to be aiming for winning more division titles, but to be deemed a successful coaching hire, Ron Rivera needs to do something that has eluded the Washington franchise since the early 1990s — he has to lead the team to consistent success in the postseason. If he can do that, he will have accomplished a monumental turnaround.
But that isn’t the end game for coach Rivera, who began his tenure in Washington talking about winning super bowls. If he can bring a Lombardi trophy or three back to Ashburn, then he will have cemented himself as one of the great coaches in Washington franchise history.
Which NFC East team has the best General Manager?
This poll is closed
New York Giants
Washington Football Team