The Athletic (paywall)
On Monday, Harris showed he spent several months preparing for action.
The day began with light shining on the worst-kept secret in town. Harris fired Ron Rivera following a 4-13 campaign in the head coach’s fourth season, none of which ended with a winning record. Rivera had the final say on personnel moves, which means a new front-office lead is required.
Washington’s managing partner praised Rivera’s handling of the challenging organizational circumstances throughout his tenure but said, “We clearly weren’t good enough this year.”
Most of all, the franchise requires a fresh vision. As the Rivera news broke in the early morning hours, Washington announced moves that shook up the NFL and NBA worlds. Ex-Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman joining the team’s advisory group tasked with searching for a football operations lead is reasonable. Former Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers was more unexpected.
Harris said the ideal plan has Washington hiring a head of football operations before interviews with coaches begin “because obviously that’s important.” In-person interviews with executives can start immediately, and with coaches on Jan. 22.
Along with Harris, Myers and Spielman, limited partners Mitchell Rales, Magic Johnson and David Blitzer round out the advisory committee.
“This is probably amongst the most important jobs I have as a managing partner,” Harris said. “It’s important that I do this personally and get this right and that we bring in the right leadership.”
According to reports, other interview requests were submitted for Kansas City Chiefs assistant GM Mike Borgonzi, Philadelphia Eagles assistant GM Alec Halaby, Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, Houston Texans OC Bobby Slowik and Ravens associate head coach/defensive line coach Anthony Weaver.
Peters is considered a formidable talent evaluator and perhaps the best front-office executive yet to hold the GM title. His connection with Myers — the Bay Area executives were raised in Northern California and attended UCLA — likely weighs heavily in any attempt to woo Peters.
Washington Post (paywall)
Josh Harris spoke rather flatly, and someone from another town who roots for another team might have taken his address about the future as, well, boring. But Harris is from Washington. He owns the Washington Commanders. And in Washington, where it concerns the local NFL franchise, he might as well have donned a top hat, twirled a cane in the air and jigged across the stage in Ashburn as he sang his answers. The tune is just that different.
Monday was about moving on from Ron Rivera as coach and chief football decision-maker, because that was a silly setup from day one. But much more than that, Monday was about Harris further distancing himself — in style, substance, word and deed — from his predecessor.
“My desire is to have the head of football operations in place and then to listen very hard to what that person wants to do in terms of the coaching staff,” Harris said Monday at the Commanders’ Ashburn headquarters. “In other words, I think those two things have to work together.
“And obviously, as I’ve said before, I want to get the best talent here and then hold them accountable and work with them, right? So what that person wants to do or not do is really important in our decision process. Doesn’t mean that you are not involved in it, but it means that to a large extent you’re relying on that person to bring a series of candidates to the table.”
Anywhere else, that is just the normal state of affairs for a stable, well-run franchise. Breaking news: This hasn’t, for years and decades, been a stable, well-run franchise. So in Washington, the above articulation of structure — an orderly chain of command — is a sea change.
Harris knows he doesn’t know everything about what he’s undertaking — both from organizational and football standpoints — and he isn’t afraid to ask smart people for help. That’s a long way from Snyder making Jim Zorn dress in a suit for endless hours of interviews at his mansion overlooking the Potomac.
Pros of the Washington job: Washington has a new owner with a reputation for providing resources and for being patient. The Commanders are in a far better spot under Harris than they were with previous owner Dan Snyder. Also, they have the second overall draft pick and five selections in the top 100. Plus based on early salary cap projections, they’ll have the most space in the NFL.
Cons of the Washington job: Washington needs to rebuild both lines and find a quarterback. The roster needs work, which it can address in the draft. The stadium needs upgrades and the team will be there for at least another six years. The team facility is small and, despite recent improvements, considered outdated. They might not build a new one for several more years.
Latest intel: Harris has hired two prominent executives — former Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers and former Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman — to assist his ownership group with searches for a new head of football operations and a head coach, franchise officials told ESPN. Myers, the architect of four championships with the Warriors and a current ESPN NBA analyst, and Spielman, a 30-year NFL front-office executive, will work with Harris and his limited partners as part of an advisory committee designed to reshape the Commanders’ front office and coaching staff, team officials told ESPN. — John Keim
On the timeline to install new leadership, Harris told reporters on Monday that the process would be rapid with the team already putting out multiple requests for interviews. But he emphasized that it would be a thoughtful approach.
“You have to make long-term decisions and do things one person at a time, one athlete at a time,” said Harris. “So sometimes they take longer. So I think what my view is that we want it to be as quick as we can, but the ultimate goal is to be an elite team.”
Myers, the architect of four championships with the Warriors and a current ESPN NBA analyst, and Spielman, a 30-year NFL front office executive, will work with Harris and limited partners Mitch Rales, Magic Johnson and David Blitzer as part of an advisory committee designed to reshape the Commanders’ front office and coaching staff, team officials told ESPN.
In a search that will commence immediately, Myers will take a lead role in identifying and coordinating interviews with candidates for the top football operations and head-coaching jobs, with Spielman set to work closely with him, officials said.
The allure of the Commanders’ job openings will be buoyed by having the No. 2 pick in a quarterback-rich 2024 draft and projected salary cap space that is among the most in the NFL this offseason.
Harris will be closely involved in the search processes, but his long-standing relationship with Myers — a two-time NBA executive of the year — evolved in recent months and convinced the owner that Myers’ championship résumé and industry relationships could play a significant role in building Washington’s new leadership structure.
The Athletic (paywall)
The train, having at long last left the station, will get up to cruising speed fast. Very fast.
But Bob Myers won’t be the conductor.
“I’m not running it,” Myers said Monday morning. “I’m not the football GM. That’s not what’s happening. The goal is to put somebody in place.”
Josh Harris isn’t wasting time putting his stamp on the Washington Commanders, after firing Ron Rivera on Monday morning. He will have a new front office in place, soon — maybe, very soon.
But Myers, who served as the Golden State Warriors’ general manager as the team became an NBA dynasty, winning four NBA championships in eight years, will not be picking the Commanders’ next coach, or doing a detailed breakdown of the efficacy of man versus zone defense, or deciding what to do with the No. 2 pick. He is serving, along with former Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman, as an advisor on the search committee that will help Harris pick the next head football majordomo.
Myers, at least for a little while, will be a consigliere of sorts for Harris, the owner’s Tom Hagen, if you will. It will last longer than the football GM search, but not forever.
This is a good, if surprising, job for him. Myers knows a lot of people. And he gets along with just about all of them. It’s among his substantial strengths. But it was nonetheless a shock to hear that he was interested in helping an NFL team — or that an NFL team would be interested in him. Yet it makes more sense when you realize that Myers has known Harris, also the majority governor of the Philadelphia 76ers, for a while.
Maybe Myers doesn’t negotiate on the team’s behalf as it navigates the byzantine tug-of-turf-war among the District, Maryland and Virginia for a new stadium and practice facility, for example. But Myers is great at putting two people together — one interested in X, the other, Y — and solving for Z. If there’s common ground that gives everyone a win, or at least avoids a loss, he’ll find it.
The Washington professional football organization, regardless of its name, is getting back in the big leagues. It might take time to build the right way, but the construction has begun.
“If we could write the script, it would be a quick turnaround, but on the other hand, you have to make long-term decisions and do things in a very one person at a time, one athlete at a time way. And so sometimes they take longer,” Harris said Monday.
His comments came in the wake of Ron Rivera’s dismissal. Harris handled the difficult situation of firing Rivera, a respected head coach who simply didn’t win enough games, with the utmost class.
Many fans celebrated last summer when the Harris group took over ownership of the Commanders, but the simple act of time neutered it from making much of an immediate impact.
The NFL approved Harris’ purchase of the team on July 20, 2023. Training camp opened July 27. With the 2023 season set to begin, Harris had no time to enact needed changes. Now, he does.
“My view is that we want it to be as quick as we can, but the ultimate goal is to be an elite team that’s competing for championships,” he said.
Throughout his comments Monday, Harris leaned on the phrase “thorough but rapid.” He understands that the NFL waits for nothing, but that taking shortcuts often ends in short-term, small gains. Long-term success–championship success–takes hard work. Harris seems prepared.
“I want to get the best talent here and then hold them accountable,” the managing partner said.
When the Harris group conducted their initial press conference in July, there were more than a few references to the success of the old “Redskins” in a previous generation. The fan base excitement instantly spread, and talk of dumping the “Commanders” brand swelled.”
In defense of the Harris group, they talked of the success of the old “Redskins;” they did not talk of changing the name back to “Redskins.”
Consequently, when asked Monday about the possibility of a new name other than “Commanders,” Harris responded, “As you can see, we’re a little busy…Working on the next improvements to our stadium, in terms of fan experience, in terms of premium areas, and fixing a lot of different things and investing in the stadium. We’re going to be rolling out a big investment program in the next few weeks, and there’s an enormous amount of detail that the business staff and some of the ownership group are working on. Then, we’ve got obviously our new home and thinking about that. Right now, our focus today is on sports first and foremost, and then these other things and so, those are our focuses right now.”
Leaders must prioritize, determining what must be done and what must not be done. Sounds like Harris has a firm foundation and discerns where his attention should be presently.
The Athletic (paywall)
The end came when Ron Rivera ran out of stories.
There was always a motivational speaker quality to the coach’s delivery, a reflection of a football lifer raised in a military household. Four years ago, Rivera arrived as the centerpiece of former owner Dan Snyder’s coach-centric structure. And in those days, Rivera had a pattern of go-to sayings that he trotted out regularly.
“Don’t draw me a map unless you’ve been there,” expressed the value of experience. “Figures lie and liars figure” became a staple whenever a statistical pro or con was mentioned. Rivera used “be where your feet are” when he felt players were more concerned about the past or future.
There were tales of meeting John Madden, and how the legendary coach and broadcaster’s advice about trusting one’s instincts led to the Carolina Panthers’ 12-4 record in Rivera’s third season as head coach. This surge birthed the “Riverboat Ron” nickname. Rivera often shared with the media whenever he received guidance from Washington’s heralded coaching hero, Joe Gibbs. There were also football narratives repeated on a loop. Anyone playing a drinking game when Rivera mentioned the “Buffalo Nickel” defensive hybrid role or “position flex” wouldn’t know a sober moment in those seasons.
Those colorful remarks, along with the former linebacker’s credentials — including a 2015 Super Bowl appearance — intrigued his new audience. They allowed Rivera to fend off the doubters who were aware of his overall uneven era with Carolina. Washington’s surprising 2020 NFC East title, despite a 7-9 record, added more credibility.
But over four seasons — none ending with a winning record — the power of those charming aphorisms began to fade. Rivera’s qualities off the field made him a rootable figure for a franchise that was often dragged through the mud under Snyder. But as the losses piled up, they weren’t enough to mask Rivera’s on-the-field failures, particularly for a disillusioned fan base that experienced one mess after another.
This coaching staff will not be back.
That allowed players to speak more freely on Monday as they were cleaning out their lockers. One of those players was right guard Sam Cosmi.
While many on the offense struggled, Cosmi’s career took off. In his first year at guard, Cosmi became one of the NFL’s most dominant guards in the second half of the season. And not running the ball didn’t sit well with Cosmi.
“I wanted to run the ball more,” Cosmi said. “Me personally, being our O-Line, give us a better chance to be more balanced. I felt like we weren’t balanced. I think we were 30th in the league in attempts and runs. I love running the ball. And I felt like it was nothing but dropback passes. So, I just wanted to be more balanced, to be completely honest with you. Just run the rock, please. That’s all I would have to say with that.”
If you ask any offensive lineman, they’ll agree with Cosmi. And while today’s NFL is more geared toward the passing game, the running game remains critical to success. As Cosmi said, it’s about finding balance. That balance didn’t exist under Bieniemy.
Cosmi then noted that he hopes the next offensive coordinator takes advantage of the team’s talent, specifically mentioning running back Brian Robinson Jr., who Cosmi labeled as “special.”
Podcasts & videos
Player Interviews from Locker Room Clean-Out Day | Washington Commanders | NFL
Standig and Sheehan discuss Commanders’ search for next head coach, GM
Jay Gruden gives his take on where Commanders go next after firing Ron Rivera with Chris Russell
Episode 736 - It is on. Josh Harris fires Ron Rivera. Forms advisory committee that includes stunning hire Bob Myers. #Commanders aggressively pursue interviews with top GM & HC candidates. I discuss all of this & react to key comments from Josh's presser.https://t.co/0Slx8RuJli— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) January 9, 2024
Commanders fire Rivera; GM and HC search underway | Trap or Dive Podcast
NFC East links
Bleeding Green Nation
The game was over before the Eagles even walked on the field on Sunday.
They were the NFL’s biggest bullies. Now, they can’t stop getting punched.
After Sunday’s disastrous 27-10 loss to the Giants that was nowhere near as close as the final score indicated, it’s hard to argue that the Eagles haven’t morphed from Super Bowl contender to perhaps the worst team in the NFL.
Yes, the worst.
How could one argue otherwise? The defense, already a middling unit that ranked last in third down stops and 30th in red zone defense under Sean Desai, has somehow gotten worse under Matt Patricia. If you watch this mash-up of plays from Sunday’s horror show against Tyrod Taylor and the Giants by Brian Baldinger, you see a collection of players who appear to be completely confused and befuddled by even the simplest concepts — concepts like motion, empty sets, and play action — that have been in existence for the better part of three generations of football.
No doubt, some of this is on Howie Roseman and the collection of players he put on the field this season...but it’s clear the players don’t trust or believe in the coaching staff. They know their coaches have no answers for them, which is shocking given some of these coaches have been in the league for a decade or more. Not having answers to simple concepts reeks of incompetence, and it’s clear after the Eagles lose in Tampa next week that most, if not all, of the defensive coaching staff will be gone.
Offensively, there really is no excuse for some of the things we’re seeing from this group. Against Wink Martindale’s blitz-heavy scheme, a scheme they played against just two weeks ago, Sirianni and Jalen Hurts performed as if they had never seen a blitz before in their lives.
It is either arrogance in their belief that their players will win their one-on-one battles no matter what, incompetence in being unable to come up with a solution to this fairly obvious and hardly-new problem, or ignorance that there is anything that needs to be fixed.
NFL league links
I’d Let Sean McVay Make All My Life Decisions After Watching This Video Of The Rams War Room Discussing If They Should Draft Puka Nacua
We have cameras rolling every second of our lives basically, especially if you’re in this sort of situation. Give me the uncut, unedited good stuff. I’ve said it numerous times, but I’m a sucker for drafts. I love them. The strategy, the smokescreens, the actual news, all of it. Because you know what? More often than not, shit hits the fan and you don’t hit on a Puka Nacua. Give me the breakdowns the Panthers had of Bryce Young vs CJ Stroud. Give me all the misses. We all love watching train wrecks and we deserve to see it with something that we love as much as sports. Sure it might hurt us again to see a running back go 2nd overall to your favorite team or to take a dumb quarterback when an All-Pro rusher was right there. But give it to us.
Side note - I can’t get over Les Snead’s outfit here. The basic t-shirt over the long sleeve. Dude looks like he’s trying to be the cool boss. We know you said fuck them picks. You can’t be waltzing around like this even if you always have a ridiculously cool war room. Even McVay put on his finest J. Crew shirt, something I assume every male over the age of 24 owns in some color variety.
Second side note - Strictly calling him BYU is a great move. Puka Nacua is an A+ name, but nope, he’s just BYU.