Rivera focused on Cowboys as rumors swirl over coach’s future
A saying Ron Rivera has used frequently since becoming coach of the Washington Commanders is: “Be where your feet are.”
On Monday, Rivera showed he’s willing to heed his own advice.
A second loss to the woeful New York Giants sent the Commanders to a 4-7 record Sunday, and likely means Rivera will not be retained when this season ends in early January — if he’s not fired sooner.
“What happens beyond today, what happens from the end of the season, that’s not in my control,” he said. “So everything I’m going to do is just focusing on today — the now and present, that’s the only thing I have, and that’s what I’ll do.”
He added: “I’ve been through this before. I understand what it takes. I understand what you have to deal with. I understand what your responsibilities are. That’s the beauty of this, is, I’ve been through it. So what I tried to do is just focus in on what’s important today, and that’s really just preparing to get ready for Dallas.”
Rivera went through the same situation as coach of the Carolina Panthers, when a new ownership group took over and ultimately fired Rivera midseason.
In Washington, fans have seen coaches come and go over the past two decades, with only Joe Gibbs able to leave on his own terms in the Dan Snyder era.
New owner Josh Harris has remained mostly out of the spotlight since taking over, but is unlikely to be satisfied with the way the Commanders have performed in what he’s already deemed an important season for Rivera.
The Commanders’ path to 4-7 has been littered with disappointment, with a handful of missed opportunities against quality teams (Seahawks, Eagles) and some embarrassing misses against bad squads (Bears, Giants).
Now Washington enters a part of the season that all players dread, as they play for their futures instead of playing for the playoffs.
“As a team, everybody has to take a hard look at themselves,” defensive tackle Jonathan Allen said. “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”
One of the team’s other captains, receiver Terry McLaurin, offered a similar message.
“Each guy has to figure out, how are you going to affect this team in a positive way to help us win?” McLaurin said. “And if you’re not, then this is probably not the place for you.”
Rivera noted that while this is traditionally the time of year when younger players get more snaps, to see what they’re capable of, that won’t be a huge issue for the Commanders, since they are already playing several young players.
The coach said the focus will remain on getting those players ready for games and cleaning up the mistakes that have held Washington back.
While the time before a long break, as this weekend will be for the team, is often prime time to make a coaching change in the NFL, there are a handful of mitigating factors in Washington.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has overseen a unit that has underachieved this year, making him a poor fit for the role of interim coach. On offense, coordinator Eric Bieniemy has been waiting for his opportunity to be a head coach, but the team has already proclaimed that the development of young quarterback Sam Howell is the priority this year, and moving Bieniemy to the interim spot would almost certainly reduce the amount of time the two spend together.
Of course, one surefire way to quiet the chatter would be to stun the Dallas Cowboys. That’s what was on left tackle Charles Leno Jr.’s mind.
“You understand that there are still games left, and anything can happen,” Leno said. “So we’ve just got to wipe this one off quickly and move forward to Dallas. We’ve got to get that win in Dallas.”
Injury notes: Defensive end Efe Obada underwent surgery on Sunday night for what was described as “multiple leg fractures.” Obada is out for the season and most likely longer as he begins the rehab process.
Linebacker Cody Barton will be able to rejoin the team for practice on Tuesday after his activation window opens. Barton, who suffered an ankle injury, can participate in as many as three weeks of practices before the team is required to move him to the active roster or shut him down for the season.