Washington Post (paywall)
Give Coach Ron Rivera a break on this much: Managing amid job insecurity is one of the most difficult tricks in any business. A chronic state of instability was unfairly thrust on him: Dan Snyder was a wreck of an outgoing owner, and by the time his forced sale to Harris was complete, it was training camp and too late for Harris to make any kind of fresh start.
Rivera’s job was thus a set of paradoxical tensions. He was supposed to establish continuity while on a tenuous professional string. He had to foster stability yet show rapid improvement, and bring a young quarterback along responsibly, while chasing win-now performances. It’s hard to say exactly where Rivera bears responsibility in this mess. What can be said, though, is that he answered his quandary by making some disconnected moves that only deepened a sense of contradictions.
[C]hange just for the sake of change can be a managerial trap — one Harris should approach with care. There’s a tendency to confuse it with freshening — to believe if you make an incremental change it will somehow result in a better outlook and therefore an upgrade. In fact, change causes anxiety in your performers, and a lot of leaders underestimate the toll it takes. You better know how to manage change and prepare others for it, because a wealth of organizational study shows that if you don’t, it can lead to further disengagement and erosion. According to Harvard Business School leadership professor John P. Kotter, change generally only works when you have convinced at least 75 percent of your people that “the status quo is more dangerous than the unknown.”
[I]t’s likely to have a double edge with Rivera’s frustrated players, who are the ones who will actually have to effect the change. They have been seeking consistency. But change, unavoidably, by definition, creates breaks in continuity. You’re suddenly asking players to fill different roles and meet shifting standards.
This is the second time Rivera has fired a key handpicked coordinator when the necessity was by no means irrefutable. Last winter it was offensive coordinator Scott Turner who took the fall. Was the offense underperforming? Certainly. But what did anyone expect with seven quarterbacks in four years, from the unready Dwayne Haskins to the limping soldier Alex Smith to the undersized Taylor Heinicke — signed off the street during the pandemic — and then Ryan Fitzpatrick’s one-game cameo before his injury, and then Carson Wentz’s fizzle, after all that planning for him? And then, in a fit of irrational exuberance, the designation of Sam Howell as the potential future of the franchise for beating the Dallas Cowboys in the final game of the 2022 regular season.
[T]oo often the Commanders have seemed disconnected, lacking in larger organizational coordination — not all of which is his fault. Who knows how much the chronic uncertainty he has worked under has exhausted him and undermined his own decisional performance?
One final, desperate move has been made...
Firing defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio only delays the inevitable where Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera is concerned.
After such an embarrassing loss on national television at the Dallas Cowboys, one sensed changes would soon follow. Many thought Josh Harris’ ownership group might pull the plug on Ron Rivera in-season, but the head coach played his last card by firing defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and defensive backs coach Brent Vieselmeyer instead.
These were the two sacrificial lambs that could ensure Rivera sees out the season. That seems to be the general consensus among the national media, although most conceded it’s a fluid situation that could change if the Washington Commanders get blown out at home to the Miami Dolphins before the bye week.
Commanders HC Ron Rivera has no more cards to play
Del Rio can have no real complaints. He’ll see himself as a scapegoat of sorts, but Washington’s once-vaunted defense has been a shell of its former self even before Montez Sweat and Chase Young were traded before the deadline.
This is Rivera’s last roll of the proverbial dice. However, it only delays the inevitable regarding his own future with the franchise.
Often, when a team fires a coach, whether a head coach or coordinator, during the season, there’s only so much you can change. After all, you’ve spent the entire year learning one scheme.
The Commanders currently rank dead last in scoring defense and aren’t far behind in total defense. Nothing they did this late in the season would significantly impact the remainder of this season.
Rivera met with the media Friday afternoon and discussed the coaching changes. What stood out here? Rivera saying, “They were doing to do things a little differently.”
What is something Rivera could do with five games remaining? The Commanders have struggled at every level of the defense — before and after the trades of Chase Young and Montez Sweat — but the secondary has been particularly bad.
Rivera can simplify some of the coverage concepts as the Commanders have had opposing wide receivers running free and unchecked through the secondary for easy big plays all throughout this season.
Washington has several young players in the secondary on rookie contracts. The Commanders need these players for the future, but many have regressed this season under Del Rio and Vieselmeyer’s leadership.
In preparation for Rivera’s return to defensive coordinator, we went back in history to see how he fared during his seven seasons as a coordinator.
- 2004: No. 12 total defense, No. 13 scoring defense
- 2005: No. 2 total defense, No. 1 scoring defense
- 2006: No. 5 total defense, No. 3 scoring defense
- 2007: No. 14 total defense, No. 5 scoring defense (DC for part of the season after Chargers fired Ted Cottrell)
- 2008: No. 25 total defense, No. 15 scoring defense
- 2009: No. 16 total defense, No. 11 scoring defense
- 2010: No. 1 total defense, No. 10 scoring defense
These are some good results from Rivera’s time as a coordinator. He obviously had more talent during his three seasons with the Bears. Rivera worked under Lovie Smith for those three seasons, and Chicago ran the “Tampa-2” defense.
The Commanders, in the last month have moved up the draft order to now a hard-to-believe 7th place position.
Howell has struggled in the recent losses, with passer ratings of 60.5 and 62.8 in the games against the Giants. Yes, he recorded a 109.3 at Seattle but then turned around with a disappointing 74.1 in the loss at Dallas.
Currently sitting at 7th in the draft order, one has to wonder, has the free fall of the Commanders meant Washington would draft a quarterback at 7?
As it stands today, the consensus is Caleb Williams, Drake Maye and Marvin Harrison are the top three picks in no certain order.
With the remaining schedule including Miami, San Francisco and Dallas again, there is no easy game on the schedule. Will the Commanders continue to lose? How much will they continue to climb the draft order?
If Howell plays well during the final five games, but the Commanders lose, it may ensure they can get a top offensive tackle to begin their 2024 draft.
Trent Williams was drafted fourth in 2010 and Brandon Scherff fifth in 2015.
If the Washington Commanders fire Ron Rivera after the 2023 season, who will they replace him with? Here’s a look at five potential candidates.
Bobby Slowik: Offensive Coordinator, Houston Texans
As the offensive coordinator for DeMeco Ryans, Slowik has been at the forefront of a shockingly successful season in Houston, helping to develop quarterback C.J. Stroud and receiver Tank Dell, among others.
It feels like the Texans have shed the label as the most dysfunctional organization in football, and as Harris looks to move beyond the Daniel Snyder Era, bringing in someone with that type of background might be appealing.
Slowik, 36, might need another year or two of seasoning before becoming a head coach, but you could do worse than an upcoming offensive mind that learned under Kyle Shanahan and has had tremendous success with a rookie quarterback.
Podcasts & videos
Talking Hang Time with Tress Way | The Player’s Club | Washington Commanders
“My A** is on FIRE on This Seat!” | MIC’D UP: Emmanuel Forbes Jr. | Washington Commanders | NFL
New Trap or Dive out now ️ #HTTC— Trap or Dive Podcast (@TraporDive) November 24, 2023
Jack Del Rio is out as DC, @LetMualTellit @SaintWah @DCSportsDre @Nell_BTP discuss today’s breaking news + more on this episode.
NFL league links
Washington Post (paywall)
The declining quality of offensive play continues to be a major storyline of this NFL season. No team has sufficient offensive linemen, scoring is down (if only slightly), red-zone concepts seem stale, and the caliber of quarterbacking may be hitting a nadir for the salary cap era.
It has been a mess, and it already has cost an offensive-minded coach his job in Las Vegas (Josh McDaniels) and play-calling offensive coordinators their jobs in Buffalo (Ken Dorsey) and Pittsburgh (Matt Canada). It’s also going to have an impact on the upcoming hiring cycle. The search for the next Kyle Shanahan or Sean McVay has already resulted in their offensive staffs being picked over; the next wave of great young offensive minds hasn’t really had time to incubate; and, in the opinion of some wise executives and coaching agents, the crop of head coaching candidates with offensive experience seems quite thin.
This league chews ’em up and spits ’em out, and the emphasis on young offensive whizzes in past hiring cycles of a copycat league has created a dearth of qualified options. Call me crazy, but it stands to reason that with defenses increasingly thriving — despite seemingly every rule change made to incentivize scoring — and with Houston’s DeMeco Ryans (a former linebacker) the standout debutant of the rookie coach class and Antonio Pierce (another former linebacker) doing a stellar job as the interim coach of the Raiders, I’m going to predict these owners finally give defensive candidates their due. And that, in turn, might finally lead to an uptick in coaches of color getting hired.
“It’s funny you ask me that because we were just talking about this in the office,” said one well-established coaching agent, who represents several potential candidates this cycle and did not want to publicly discuss the merits of some over others. “The candidates look better on [the defensive] side of the ball. We were trying to remember the last year when more than two defensive coaches were hired or more on defense than offense. It’s definitely been a while, and it should happen this year. The best candidates are on that side of the ball.”
Another top coaching agent agreed: “You look at the names, and there are some strong résumés with these defensive coordinators. It’s not a very deep pool, especially for the OCs. That doesn’t mean some of these guys won’t be good head coaches, but it’s not a deep pool. I could see it leaning to the defense. It probably should.”
Pro Football Talk
Last Sunday, Jay Glazer of Fox Sports reported that Rodgers hopes to return to practice on December 2, which is both Rodgers’s 40th birthday and the day before the Jets’ next game, against the Falcons.
It makes no sense for Rodgers to hold out hope for returning in 2023. The better play would be to use the next appearance on his weekly in-season platform with Pat McAfee to say he’s not coming back this year but he is coming back next year, and that everything he and the team do for the rest of the season should be done with the full knowledge that, no matter what happens this year, he’ll be a Jet next year.
Although anything can happen, nothing is currently happening for the Jets. Tim Boyle isn’t the answer. Trevor Siemian can’t even earn a chance to be the answer. And Zach Wilson is only the answer to one specific question: Which quarterback currently on the roster has a less-than-zero-percent chance of being on the team next season?
Amon-Ra St. Brown fined $43,709 for block that wasn't flagged. https://t.co/HZUs4I4aIh— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) November 25, 2023