ASHBURN, VA – Ron Rivera's tenure as Washington Redskins head coach promises to bring major changes at least from his immediate predecessor, Jay Gruden. Whether he can build the consistent winning team that has eluded Dan Snyder in two decades as owner remains to be seen.
Snyder, who rarely speaks publicly, introduced Rivera on Thursday and said his new coach will have unique authority.
“What the Redskins have needed is a culture change,” Snyder said at Rivera's introductory news conference. “Someone that can bring a winning culture to our organization. That starts and ends with our head coach.”
Snyder spoke for 1 minute, 40 seconds, and did not take questions — a reminder that the Redskins under his ownership remain in many ways an atypical NFL franchise.
During his brief remarks, Snyder lauded Rivera, who will turn 58 on Jan. 7, as a proven winner. He pointed out that Rivera, in nearly nine seasons as coach of the Carolina Panthers, was a two-time Coach of the Year and led the team to a 15-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance in the 2015 season.
In speaking with people who knew Rivera, Snyder said several words were mentioned: “Integrity, honesty, knowledge, grit, determination. It's all about winning. Ron Rivera knows how to win as a player, as a coach. ...
“One thing that's very, very important. We're going to have one voice, and only one voice alone. That's the coach's.”
How exactly Washington's football operations will be managed isn't clear, but this isn't the first time Snyder has brought in an established head coach and given him broad authority to shape the franchise. Joe Gibbs, who came out of retirement for a second stint as Washington's coach in the 2000s, and Mike Shanahan, who coached the team from 2010-13, were given power not just to coach the team but to build the roster. Neither finished with a winning record.
Washington's record since Snyder bought the team in 1999 is 142-193-1, and its only playoff victory was in 2005 under Gibbs.
Snyder did not say whether Bruce Allen, who was fired as team president on Monday after 10 years with the Redskins, would be replaced.
Rivera was fired by Carolina on Dec. 3, two days after the Panthers lost to the Redskins.
“This team got me unemployed. We're good now,” Rivera joked.
He wasn't eager for time off from coaching. Snyder contacted Rivera's agent three days after his dismissal, and they began a series of phone calls and meetings that led to him replacing interim coach Bill Callahan, who isn't continuing with the team. Snyder fired Gruden after Washington lost its first five games this year.
Rivera accepted the Washington job without interviewing for other open NFL positions.
“It's not about the money,” he said. “If it was about the money, if I wanted the money, I'd still be out there, trying to pit a couple of teams against each other. I took this job for one simple reason, because Dan Snyder came to my with a very interesting perspective.
“For weeks, he's explored the reasons why some teams win and some don't. He told me the common factor in that transitional success of teams like the Patriots, the Seahawks and the Chiefs and some of the other ones is the decision to take it and make it a coach-centered approach. Not an owner-centered approach or a team president or a GM.”
Rivera liked what Snyder said, but added one crucial element.
“I'd he honored,” Rivera said. “But under one condition: It had to be a player-centered culture.”
He emphasized his military background and said discipline was vital: “It isn't taught. It's lived."
“Do it the way we teach you. Do it the way we ask. If you do it that way, the success will be yours,” Rivera added. “Do it our way. Do it the right way, and if we fail, it's on me. OK, it will be on me, the head coach.”
Over the past few weeks, Rivera said he watched six Redskins games, and feels he has a good grasp of the team's personnel. He's encouraged by the potential of quarterback Dwayne Haskins, a first-round draft pick who just finished his rookie season.
“I think he can become a franchise-style quarterback,” Rivera said.
Rivera didn't commit to retaining offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell. He's beginning the interview process and has received permission from teams to talk with coaches.
Jack Del Rio, the former head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders, was named defensive coordinator earlier Thursday. He attended the news conference along with several players including veteran running back Adrian Peterson, who is eager to continue his career under Rivera.
“Everything I've heard about coach Ron has been nothing but phenomenal and amazing,” Peterson said. “I'm just excited to get started with him.”
The Redskins are coming off a 3-13 season, but Rivera believes they can become a contender quickly.
“I told him I didn't want to go through a five-year rebuilding process,” Rivera said. “I just don't have the patience, and from what I've read, neither does he, so we understand that.”
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