Washington Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera spoke to reporters this afternoon. He said he will meet with coaches today before making a decision on who will be the starting quarterback for the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. He emphasized that the team is playing to win, which doesn’t sound like a turn to rookie QB Sam Howell. We will likely get his QB decision before Wednesday’s practice, but it could leak out sooner.
Rivera talked about his “little bit of a gaffe” at his post-game presser yesterday, where he didn’t know that Washington could be eliminated with a loss to the Browns and wins by the Lions and Packers. He said he never thought they would lose to Cleveland, he expected a win, and their game against the Cowboys to be flexed to Sunday and be a big game for the NFC playoff picture. That obviously didn’t happen, and the team has been eliminated after their third straight loss.
Rivera was asked about switching to Carson Wentz in the 4th quarter of the 49ers game, and then starting him this week for his first start since a Week 6 finger injury placed him on IR. Rivera went back to his wanted a spark comment when talking about going back to Wentz. He said he saw enough from Wentz to feel comfortable going to him, and also brought up the team’s 0-2-1 record in December with Taylor Heinicke starting, He doesn’t regret going back to his Week 1 starter, but he expected it to go a lot differently when he returned to play.
Rivera talked about the problems he’s had finding QB1 since taking over the team 3 years ago. He said that’s the one position they’ve got to solidify more than anything else, and it’s the toughest spot to solidify. He also said they would continue to work on it, which sounds like Washington could have a different Week 1 starter for the fourth time in four years if Rivera is retained as the head coach.
Rivera also talked about the trouble the team has had replacing Kam Curl. Yesterday he mentioned that an MRI found “a little something else”. Washington tried to replace Curl by committee with players like Percy Butler and Jeremy Reaves. He also talked about Benjamin St-Juste being out again, and Danny Johnson stepping up to replace him and make some plays.
LIVE: HC Ron Rivera speaks to the media https://t.co/78w3O7umRv— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) January 2, 2023
Ron Rivera at the podium. Said he's meeting with coaches later today and will make a decision on a quarterback after that— Zach Selby (@ZachSelbyWC) January 2, 2023
Ron Rivera on the QB decision for Week 18: "We're going to continue to evaluate. ... I'm meeting with coaches later today and we'll discuss all those things as a group, and then I'll make a decision when it's time and appropriate."— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) January 2, 2023
Playing to win:
Ron Rivera about Week 18: "Were playing to win...That's how we approached yesterday, so much so that I made a gaffe not knowing we could get knocked out of the playoffs"— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) January 2, 2023
Ron Rivera on his presser yesterday: "I know I made a little bit of a gaffe yesterday... but to be honest with you, I never thought that we would lose. I was anticipating winning and I was anticipating our game getting flexed to 8:30"— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) January 2, 2023
Return to Carson Wentz as the starter:
Ron Rivera on turning to Wentz: "I was looking for the spark, and the way he performed in that last quarter in San Francisco, I was feeling pretty comfortable, pretty confident he'd be able to do that again. ... I didn't expect it to play out the way it did."— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) January 2, 2023
Regret starting Wentz?:
Rivera said he doesn't regret putting Carson Wentz in. "Being 0-2-1 in the last three games really pushed me" to make the change, he said.— Matthew Paras (@Matthew_Paras) January 2, 2023
“No, because to me it was always about winning and that it was in our hands. I mean, we controlled our destiny basically and that’s the truth of the matter. Being zero two and one in the last three games was probably a thing that really pushed me more than anything else. And that’s what I looked at. And as I said, coming off of the last quarter of the 49ers game, I was relatively optimistic in terms of dealing with what Carson could do. I thought we could run the ball. I think we could have run the ball a little bit better even though we did run it well. And I think that could have helped us a little bit more. But again, it’s the decision that was made because I felt we needed a little something, after going that stretch of three games zero two and one.”
Rivera says toughest thing in his time in Washington is the inability to find QB1. "That's the one position we've got to solidify more than anything else"— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) January 2, 2023
This was the sense I got, too.— Ethan Cadeaux (@Ethan_Cadeaux) January 2, 2023
Rivera straight up said "it didn't work right now" in relation to finding a free agent QB this past year (Wentz).
I fully expect next year's Week 1 starter is not currently on the roster https://t.co/W6GsS85Ymr
Rivera said, "The toughest thing is solidifying the Qb 1 spot. That's something we'll continue working on. I was asked that question 8 or 9 weeks ago, what the difference was and that's the one position we have to solidify going forward."— John Keim (@john_keim) January 2, 2023
“Well, I think the biggest thing coming here and, and, and holding Pat for the most part with, the quarterbacks that were here when we got here. And then the second year, you know, trying to put everything else in place and, and bring a veteran guy in. And unfortunately, he got hurt in the first game. I think this year, looking at it, trying to find the right free agent for us, I think that was one of the things that we felt we could do. Unfortunately, that didn’t work right now and we’ll see, I mean, as I said, we’ll get an opportunity to sit down, talk about it and evaluate it as a staff next week once it’s all said and done.”
Replacing Kam Curl:
Commanders tried to replace Kam Curl by committee, Rivera said. On losing BSJ, Rivera added that it did put a strain on the defense, but he thought Danny Johnson played well in the role— Zach Selby (@ZachSelbyWC) January 2, 2023
“Well, it’s tough on those guys cause there’s certain things that you want to do and certain ways that we place certain other things in the game. I mean, there’s some situational stuff that we had to alter. We tried to replace Kam by committee and having different guys play the positions that he did. We played a linebacker at that buffalo position. We played some DBs at the other position that we use them in the box. I don’t know it was one of those things. It was by committee and I think it might have slowed Jack down a little bit because they’d been very creative with the things that they’d been able to do using Kam’s ability. And then with Benjamin, not having the top corner out there it does stress you a little bit. But again, I do think Danny came in and played some pretty solid football as well. But maybe some of the things that Jack wanted to do schematically, it might’ve probably slowed him down.”
Progression through his time as the Head Coach:
“Well, I think some of the things that we’ve done defensively. I think that’s a big step in the right direction more so than anything else. I think we’ve got a good core, good nucleus of young players, surrounded by a few veteran guys that can help lead us going forward. That’s what I look, I think we’ve got that. I mean, you look at our skill positions, I think wide receiver and running back are two really good skill positions for us right now with some young players that are going to just get better with time. I think defensively we know what the defensive line is about. II think those guys have really kind of come together and have really bought into the way Jack and the defensive staff use them.
I think we’ve found our through the middle guys in terms of our safeties. I think Jamin has come along well. If we can get Cole back out healthy, I think that that group can be a good tandem of linebackers and DB’s. So I think we’re trending in the right direction. As I said though, I think it is really about the young nucleus of players that we have. A lot of homegrown guys are here to be able to handle and deal with it. That’s probably the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to is the development growth of that group.”
Coach-centric philosophy has gone for him:
“I think the biggest thing that’s been the toughest thing right now is really being able to solidify the QB1 spot. I mean that’s something that we’re continuing working. I believe Ben said that this off season, he’ll be helping us to look for the QB1. And that’s the thing that we gotta do. I was asked that question about eight, nine weeks ago what’s the difference? Well, that’s the one position that we’ve gotta solidify going forward more so than anything else.”
Changes after the bye week:
“There are a few things. I got a few ideas, but that’s something that when we get a chance to really sit down and evaluate and go through and talk about, we most certainly will discuss.”
Power to make changes with potential ownership changes occurring:
“I think so, but at the end of the year, once we get done, I will most certainly be sitting down with ownership as it is and have the discussion about this, about the organization, and the direction and what we will be able to do going forward.”
Worried that the decision to start QB Carson Wentz sat poorly with the team?:
“No, I don’t. I think I made my feelings and my reasoning pretty clear to a lot of people and I’d like to think that if there was a disagreement or a difference of opinion, that it would be cool that guys could come and talk to me about that. But you know, again, as I said, I did what I thought was going to help us get a little bit of a spark and get an opportunity to win and get into the playoffs.”