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Ron Rivera Presser: DL Coach Sam Mills fired over difference in philosophy; needed to change what was happening in camp

Ron Rivera announces a change to the coaching staff

Ron Rivera opened up his post-practice training camp today with a surprising announcement, Defensive Line Coach Sam Mills III has been fired and he will be replaced with assistant DL Coach Jeff Zgonina. Mills was brought to Washington, along with most of the coaching staff, from the Carolina Panthers after Rivera was fired during the 2019 season. He was with the Panthers since 2005, first as a defensive assistant, and eventually becoming the DL coach in 2018, and adding the title of game management coach in his final year there.

The Mills family has a long history in the NFL, and his father was just inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. Sam Mills Jr. was a linebacker who played in the CFL and USFL early in his career, before playing for the New Orleans Saints and Carolina Panthers. He is also a member of both of those team’s Rings of Fame.

Sam Mills III has had an overabundance of talent to work with in his two season with Washington. First round picks Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and Chase Young should form one of the best DLs in the league, and they seemingly did in 2020, but last year was seen as a massive disappointment by everyone as the defense looked confused, disorganized and poorly coached. Defensive Coordinator Jack Del Rio took a lot of heat from media and fans, but there have been reports that Mills had issues with players in his group that were not resolved.

Mills is now gone in what Rivera called a difference in philosophy. He said it wasn’t about the disappointing 2021 campaign, but about making a change from things that were happening this offseason, and specifically in training camp. Washington had brought Warren Sapp in to work with the DL earlier in the offseason, and he was there again today along with former Redskins great Ryan Kerrigan who is shadowing the coaching staff to see if coaching is in his future.

Ron Rivera

DL Coach Sam Mills fired:

Jeff Zgonina:

Ryan Kerrigan:

Carson Wentz:

New Defensive Line Coach Jeff Zgonina is a former NFL DT who played 219 career games as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers (1993-94), Carolina Panthers (1995), Atlanta Falcons (1996), St. Louis Rams (1997, 1999-2002), Indianapolis Colts (1998), Miami Dolphins (2003-06) and Houston Texans (2007-09). He also won a Super Bowl with the St. Louis Rams over the Tennessee Titans following the 1999 season.

Zgonina has been coaching since 2013 when he was a member of the Houston Texans coaching staff as an Assistant DL Coach. He held the same job with the New York Giants in 2016. Zgonina took the DL Coach job with the San Francisco 49ers the following year. In 2020 he joined Ron Rivera in Washington as the Asst DL Coach, and has now been promoted again.

DL Coach Jeff Zgonina


Play hard, stay healthy:

Play as a unit:

DL making great strides in camp:

Opportunity to win a championship:

Jonathan Allen

Sam Mills fired:

Great game, terrible business:

Ron Rivera spoke with the team:

John Bates


Benjamin St-Juste

Comfort level: