Ron Rivera had a head start on what was supposed to be a hot market for him.
So it surprised a lot of people around the league when the two-time NFL coach of the year signed on with Washington after he was fired by the Panthers.
His reputation is effectively the opposite of Washington’s. He’s been successful, and stable, and accountable, and respected. Meanwhile his new boss is 142-193-1 in 21 years as owner with five times as many coaches (10, if you count the interims) as playoff wins (two).
“What I love is the opportunity, the challenge,” Rivera told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. “It’s funny because everyone kept asking, ‘Why did you take the job so quickly?’ It ain’t about the money. I really thought about it. I could’ve waited on the Giants. I could’ve waited on Cleveland. I could’ve waited on Dallas. Those are the teams we kept hearing [had interest]. This is about the fit, and the more I listened, the more I looked at it, the more I looked at the roster, that’s what impressed me the most, the more I knew.
“I came in [to initial talks] with some trepidation, but as I’ve gotten to know Mr. Snyder, I understand really all he wants to do is figure out how to win, and that is pretty exciting.”
That has eluded him in two-plus decades, but Rivera sounds convinced that this time Snyder is ready to get out of the way and let him work.
“Mr. Snyder was contrite, self-deprecating, very upfront and very honest,” Rivera said. “He laid it all out in front of me. That really made me feel and believe that he knows his mistakes and he doesn’t want to repeat them. . . .
“Every time I have guys come in, I tell them: ‘It’s going to be hard. It’s not going to be easy. But I need you all. I can’t do it myself. “Just because they hired me doesn’t mean the culture changes automatically. All it means is I am going to come in and implement the things I believe in. ‘I need your help. I need you to buy in. I need you to believe in what I am trying to do.’ We have to change the perception. That’s just the way it is. If you don’t, it will stick with you.”
The perception has stuck to Snyder through so many alleged epiphanies and new strategies, so it’s unclear if Rivera is able to make that kind of change. If he does, it will be his best work yet.