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Ron Rivera and Martin Mayhew talk about the Washington Commanders season, and what’s going to change

Season ending presser

Washington Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera and General Manager held their post-season presser this morning. The team finished with an 8-8-1 record and a 4th place finish in the NFC East. They missed the playoffs after collapsing in December, and then losing at home to the Cleveland Browns two weeks ago. Rivera started shutting injured players down before the final game, and finally gave rookie QB Sam Howell his shot against a Dallas Cowboys team that was playing for the chance to win the division, and possibly get the #1 seed in the NFC. The Commanders embarrassed the Cowboys who were forced to keep their starters in late in the 4th quarter. That 26-6 win was a feel good moment, but didn’t take the bitter taste fans had from Rivera’s decision to start Carson Wentz vs the Browns, and another season that just wasn’t good enough for the postseason.

Meeting with the Snyders:

Potential sale of the franchise:

Ownership change in Carolina:

Rivera: “Well, the biggest thing is in Carolina when I went through that, it was pretty much Ron, you’ve gotta do business as normal. And that’s what we tried to do. We tried to stay business normal. We prepared for the draft like we normally did. We tried to put all the pieces into place like we normally would. We went out and did the free agency thing like we normally would. So really, it didn’t impact those things because for the most part, if you stop working and they may not get that type of product you want.”

Carson Wentz’s future with the team:

Quarterback this year:

Mayhew: “Yeah, I mean I think we had several talented guys. All those guys have to have ability, have talent. As I mentioned to you guys before, we did a lot of work on Carson. We knew a lot about him, the good, the bad, the ugly. We thought he was a good fit for how we wanted to play football and we weren’t able to play the style of ball. We wanted to play the first couple games as you guys saw. Didn’t have BRob. Didn’t have the run game going the way that, that we wanted it going. We were two to one pass run, which is not our formula. As you saw this last game, we were two to one run pass, for every time that we threw the ball, we ran the ball twice. That’s how we want to play. We weren’t able to play that way early in the season with Carson but he’s a very talented guy. Second overall pick. We did a lot of work on him talking to people about his play, about him, his presence in the locker room and the whole deal. We felt very, very comfortable bringing him in, and we thought he would fit how we wanted to play. With regard to Taylor [Heinicke], he’s just been exceptional since I’ve been here. Prior to me getting here, obviously he played great in that playoff game against Tampa Bay. Last year we signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to start him. He played 16 snaps. Taylor played the whole season for us last year. This past season, we brought Carson in. He waits his turn and when his turn comes, he steps in and he plays great football for us. So, he was instrumental, I thought, in salvaging our season. I thought he did a really good job getting us back on track and getting us back to winning games. As far as Sam [Howell], I mean, you guys saw, he was impressive. First start for him to. His first pass being a touchdown pass. You know, we kind of were like, Hey, just keep doing that. So, he got up to a really good start and it’s gonna be a lot of evaluation process for him as well. You know, we’ll see where it all shakes out.”

Past QB search:

“Well, you pretty much have to enter every season and look at the entire landscape of what’s available and I thought we did a really good job of that last year. We talked about drafting guys. We talked about who we could trade for and we talked about free agents. We went through the entire process of all those guys and did a very thorough evaluation. We will do the same thing this year. We’re not gonna rule out acquiring a vet. We’ll go through the entire landscape of who’s available. We’ll evaluate ‘em and we’ll get to a consensus on somebody.”

Current QB search:

Franchise QB:

Mayhew: “Yeah, well, I mean, obviously the guy has to be a leader. He has to have arm strength, he has to have an NFL caliber arm. He has to be a guy that can create off schedule that, you know, when things break down, he can make something happen that’s positive. That’s what we’re looking for in that position. Some guys have some of those attributes that are stronger than others, but you have to have the complete package, you know? It really, again, the quarterback is one person on the field. Obviously, a very critical position touches the ball, every single play, but what you have around him is really so important. What kind of weapons do you have for him? What kind of defense do you have if he is he playing from behind a lot? Is he able to get into a rhythm and stay on the field or is the other team running the ball? I mean, the first couple games, I think we were giving up about seven and a half yards a carry the first two games. So we weren’t able to get on the field and stay on the field consistently. The other teams were driving the ball on us and keeping us off the field. We couldn’t get into any type of rhythm so all those things come into play. It’s difficult for one guy to come in and completely flip everything. That’s hard to do. You have to have complimentary football where the defense helps out the offense, the offense stays on the field, keeps the other offense off the field. All those things are needed to be successful. When we played with that formula, when those things happened, we played well. When we weren’t able to, those were the games that we didn’t play as well.”

Taylor Heinicke:

Sam Howell:

Mayhew: “Very, very small sample, but yes, that’s a great point. We compare it with what’s gonna be available. What we’ve seen in practice from him has been very good. It translated very well to the game which that has not always been the case. With other players in the past. He practiced very well throughout the season. We gave him an opportunity late and he went in and played the way that he practiced and he’s just got a very, very calm demeanor. The guy has the right attitude, he’s got a very quiet confidence about him. It’s promising and it’s good to have Sam as an option as we move forward and we’re talking through what the other alternatives are right now.”

Run-first offense:

Rivera: “I think it’s a philosophical belief. I mean for me it is. I’ve been involved with that. I think a big part of it is that you’ve got to be able to help your defense as well. If you look at a lot of the teams that do end up at the end where they are, most of ‘em rush for well over a thousand on offense. And I think they control the tempo of the game and I think that’s what we need to do to win football games. We need to control that tempo of the game. I do believe in a two-back system. I’ve had success with that and I believe we had some pretty good success with it. Unfortunately, both those young men for us ended up on injured reserve, Brian wasn’t injured he just didn’t finish the last game. But, they’re a talented group of guys and we’ve got to be able to use them. We’ve got some talented positions and we’ve got to be able to get the ball in those guys’ hands.”

Mayhew: “I think we’re all products of our experience in this league. And in my experience here, the most success that I had was playing here and we were run first football team and we were running back by committee football team, you know? That’s what I’ve had success with. When we had success in Detroit in 2014, we had a run first orientation. I know coach has has had a pretty good running back when you played too in Chicago. So I think we’re products of that and what we’ve experienced, and that’s where I’ve had the most success. And I know that late in the year, that becomes really important. And when you can’t run the football late in the year, it makes it very, very difficult to advance, make the playoffs or have success in the playoffs. So that’s why I think it’s really important and the physicality of the game, I think, is what can, can make a good team better or an average team good. When you can out hit somebody, it gives you a chance to win every game.”

Year 3 progress:

Missing the playoffs:


“Well, I just kind of liked the direction we’ve headed. I know one of the things we talked about was taking a big step from last year being in year three and we didn’t quite get into the playoffs like we wanted to, but the biggest thing that we did was we took the kind of step, I think that gives us the right direction headed that that puts us where we want to be. I think, again, if we can go out and we can add some talent in some areas, continue to work on what our formula is, I think it gives us an opportunity to continue to grow and get better. For me personally, I just wanna continue to grow as a football coach. Continue to look at the things that we do and see how we can improve them. See how we can utilize the talent that we have. And then as a decision maker continue to collaborate with Martin and his staff of guys and scouts so, we can make good decisions going forward. I think we’ve done a pretty good job trying to put talent in place. You look at some of the things that we’ve done with some of the young guys in development, you’ve seen in some of the young guys. I think it’s very promising. I think some of the things that we did, and one of the things that we did during the draft, and Martin orchestrated it was a trade in the first round, so we could go backwards. Picked up Jahan, we picked up BRob, we picked up Sam [Howell], we picked up Cole Turner, I mean, four young guys that we think can be part of what we’re doing going forward. And those are the kind of things that we want to be able to get better at and continue to find that kind of talent because one of the things that when Martin and Marty came in, we talked about was roster building as much as we can through the draft and putting those pieces into place. A couple examples of some of those pieces that really stepped up for us, we were very happy about was DFoe, a young man that came in and did a really nice job for us. Those are the kind of things that we’re looking for through this draft through these draft processes that we’ve gone through.”

Staff changes:

Aggressiveness in the draft:

Rivera: “Well, I think the biggest thing more than anything else is, if we do like we did last year, we look at what the possibilities are and one of the scenarios came up and you gotta be willing to pull the trigger. And you know, as I alluded earlier, Martin did a great job in terms of that. We had talked about what the potential was and as it started to come to fruition, we did it and we’ll do the same thing. I think we’ll take a look at what the situations are, what they could be. We went through the scenarios, we presented ‘em to each other, talked about ‘em, and the scenario that we thought was gonna happen actually did. And that was one of the cool things that we had gone through that and prepared ourselves for it.”

Daron Payne:

“Well, we think he’s a piece. He fits the formula of what we wanna do and how we wanna play and he’s got the skillset that you would like to have. We think his presence on the football field was outstanding this season, and he did a lot of good things for us. And it is most certainly something that we have to talk about and make sure we can, uh, figure it out as we go forward.”


“Well, I think after we made the Jackson trade, you could see the need to put the young guys out there. One thing that did happen though was when you trade a veteran player, now you’re instantly getting into your depth. And so we had a group of young guys that we were working on that now had to step up. One guy who did step up, that really helped us out an awful lot, and I wouldn’t call him a young guys, just Danny Johnson. He continues to be prepared, be ready to play, and every time he’s had an opportunity, he’s helped us out and he’s done a really nice job. We got several young guys that we gotta find out more about and they’ll get opportunities once we get into the off-season workout program. But Christian Holmes is a young man who did some good things and did have a, a couple of tough outings or actually one tough outing against the Giants. But he’s a young guy that shows some promise, especially on special teams. He was a tremendous contributor there for us. Very pleased with what we got from Percy [Butler]. Percy had a great opportunity this past Sunday and, and really showed out that he is capable, and again, he excelled on special teams. With WildGoose, a guy who we gave some opportunities on early on. We threw him right into the fire and he tried to play nickel and learn. But it was tough, anytime you come in the middle of the season and you’re expected to pick things up instantly. Castro Fields, another young man that we plucked and grabbed him on final cutdown day as a guy that some people wanted to put on their practice squad, but here’s a guy we grabbed and we had him on the 53 until he got hurt. So we’ve got a good group of young guys that we’re curious about. We most certainly do look to add to that group. In talking with Martin earlier, some things that we got to look at, that’s one of the positions we most certainly want to see if we can add some more depth to, whether it’s through free agency or through the draft. But it is a position of interest for us.”

Danny Johnson:

Offensive line:


Being a players coach:

“Well, you know, one of the things that I kind of here to is the players don’t care until they know you care. And I just want to make sure they understand that. But more importantly, the biggest thing is just trying to make sure we can keep them focused in on the task at hand. I know there’s been a lot of things that have swirled around us the last few years, but the one thing I really appreciate is the way that they’ve played for us when we’ve gotten on the field.

I know two weeks ago we didn’t play the way we wanted against Cleveland, and then coming into the last game, I know several people thought they would roll over and quit, and that’s not who they are. Those young men came out and they played to their abilities. And it’s funny, because I know a lot of people said to me, well, that’s who they can be. No, that’s not who they can be. That’s who they are. That’s who they are. I mean, they have a chance to be a really good football team, and they play that way. That’s who they really are.

And that’s what I’ve tried to instill in them is that, have the confidence to be who you are and that was exciting. And it was cool, I talked to everybody but two guys. Two guys that had some things they had to take care of, and I will talk with them eventually. But I’ve talked to the entire roster and coming out that meeting, the positivity of what we’re doing, I think really echoed with them. And again, it’s something that we most certainly can build on, we need to build on and we need to pick up where we left off.

Who the team is:

Offensive weapons:

Training camp injuries/joint practices:

Scott Turner:

Kam Curl: