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Ron Rivera says his focus is on QB development, not his own future

Although the Washington Commanders are 4-6 with a new owner and only seven games remaining to make a push for the playoffs, Coach Ron Rivera said that he hasn’t given much thought to his own future and that his priority is developing quarterback Sam Howell.

“I mean, I understand the situation and circumstances, but I’m not going to waver on anything,” Rivera said Friday. “I’ll stick to what I talked about in the spring, and that was the growth and development of the quarterback and the offensive unit. … My big disappointment has been we haven’t played as well on defense that we’ve needed to. Does that make my job security shaky? It could. I mean, I have no idea what [owner] Mr. [Josh] Harris is going to do. So all I can do is just focus in on each game each week and just stay on that game.

“I did the same thing in Carolina, and the truth is, I mean, this is the nature of the game,” he continued, thinking back to when his nine-year tenure with the Panthers ended in 2019, a season after David Tepper purchased the team. “I get it. So if it happens, it happens. If I stay, I stay. Until then, I will just continue to work.”

Harris, a private-equity investor and owner of multiple pro sports franchises, finalized his $6.05 billion purchase of the Commanders in July, days before the start of training camp. His intent was to use his first season to observe and analyze the team’s football and business operations before making any decision about its staff and needed changes.

But he never guaranteed long-term futures for anyone, and given the team’s disappointing play of late, it’s plausible that both sides of the operation could undergo alterations after the season.

Rivera said he’s “confident and comfortable” in his abilities as a head coach and pointed out that his tenure in Washington has been fraught with off-field issues, including multiple federal and NFL-led investigations into the team’s former owner and previous workplace. Rivera was also diagnosed with cancer in 2020 and underwent chemotherapy and proton radiation treatments that sapped him physically and mentally for the better part of his first two seasons.

“S—, I’ve been through enough,” Rivera said. “The last three and a half years have not been easy. Anybody who thinks it’s been easy, to hell with them. And I’ll be honest with you, because that’s how I feel about the last three years. It’s been a lot, we’ve done a lot.”

But he did note that Washington’s defensive struggles, especially in recent weeks, have been disappointing. The team’s pass rush has fallen flat, and two and a half weeks ago it traded defensive ends and former first-round picks Montez Sweat and Chase Young to the Chicago Bears and San Francisco 49ers, respectively.

Wanted: Game-changing plays from the Commanders’ defensive tackles

“Last week, we didn’t get the pressure on the quarterback I would’ve liked to have had,” Rivera said. “[Seahawks quarterback] Geno [Smith] was struggling. It would’ve been good to have been able to put more pressure on the quarterback. It would have helped us. It probably would’ve given us an even better opportunity to win. But, again, I’m going to work with what we have and deal with what we have and just continue to stick to what I’ve said.”

But when asked if he thought about making a change to his defensive staff with the hope of sparking improvement, much like Buffalo hoped on offense when it fired coordinator Ken Dorsey earlier this week, Rivera said he never considered it.

“No because, I mean, in this situation and circumstances right now, to me there’s more than just one reason [for the team’s record],” Rivera said. “And I’m not looking to throw anybody under the bus or blame anybody. I want to get through this season. I want to get through the season with as many wins as we can have. I want to get in the playoffs. We have seven games left to play and we’ll see what happens. But I’m not going anywhere in terms of changing what I’m doing or changing my approach. We started this and I think we have an opportunity to do some good things and, again, just continue with the growth.”

Rivera said he continues to have multiple conversations with Harris and his ownership group about the direction of the team and daily on-field decisions, from game-decisions and personnel.

“Mr. Harris has been terrific, he really has,” Rivera said. “And it’s just, you know, he’s playing everything close to the vest, as he should. It’s his prerogative as the owner. He’ll make decisions that he feels, that are best in the future. So we’ll see what happens.”

He added: “The thing that feels good is at the end of the day, the questions that need to be asked are: Is the culture better and have we found the quarterback? That’s all I can control. I can control what I can and that’s the way I look at. But our guys will show up, our guys will play hard. We’ll play to the very bitter end, like we did last year, and see what happens at the end.”


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