ASHBURN, Va. — New Washington Redskins coach Ron Rivera understands the history of coaches under owner Dan Snyder. There have been six previous full-time hires. All six have exited with a losing record. Rivera wasn’t fazed.
Now, he’ll try to do what established coaches such as Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan failed to do: win in Washington … under Snyder.
“I believe in me and I’ll bet on me,” Rivera said at his news conference Thursday.
The Redskins announced Rivera’s hiring Wednesday morning, signaling quite a new start to their year. But Snyder, who has owned the team since 1999, wants more than that. He wants change after enduring a 3-13 season that has riled up an irate fan base. The Redskins haven’t won a playoff game since the 2005 season. And they haven’t won 11 games in a season since 1991.
Snyder fired team president Bruce Allen — who had been with the team for a decade — on Monday to kick off what could be massive change in the organization. The Redskins have been beset by issues, which more often than not reach the media and help create a negative atmosphere, multiple players have said over the years.
“What the Redskins have needed is a culture change,” said Snyder, who introduced Rivera but did not take questions, “someone that can bring a winning culture to our organization, and it starts and ends with our head coach.”
Numerous sources have said over the years that the Redskins needed to get on the so-called same page. Too often there would be division because, as one former football staffer said, the “non-football people were making football decisions.”
“One thing that’s very important,” Snyder said, “is we’re going to have one voice and one voice alone and that’s the coach’s.”
Snyder became interested in Rivera almost immediately after he was fired by the Panthers two days after the Redskins won at Carolina. One source involved in the hiring said former Redskins coach Joe Gibbs told Snyder: Go get Rivera. Snyder contacted Rivera’s agent, Frank Bauer, within a day or two after the firing. They spoke on three consecutive days. Rivera, who received a five-year deal, met with Gibbs, who one source said had a “tremendous influence” on this process.
Six days after he was fired, Rivera spoke with Snyder for 40 minutes on the phone, and then the next day for 20 more minutes. They met in person shortly thereafter. After that meeting, Rivera met with Gibbs. Bauer said the Hall of Fame coach gave Rivera this message: Snyder is passionate and will do what you ask, but you must be upfront with him and keep him in the loop.
Overall, Snyder and Rivera met three times at undisclosed locations, for a total of 35 hours. Stephanie Rivera said she and her husband ate with Snyder and his wife, Tanya, at his house on multiple occasions. One notable pleasure: the homemade pasta.
“Dan said he collects chefs,” Stephanie said. “We have eaten so well, we all have to start working out. Every meal was incredible. Their love of food won us over, too.”
After their second meeting, Rivera was convinced that it could work, his agent said. Within two weeks of Rivera being fired, he told his agent that he believed Snyder was serious about winning and this was the job he wanted to pursue. He told Bauer that he liked Snyder’s passion.
“Frank said, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to talk to other people?'” Stephanie said. “[Ron] said, ‘No, I really feel confident in what his vision is, and that it meshes with mine. He was like, ‘Frank, just get it done.'”
Rivera said there was no reason to wait. He said he had pointed discussions with Snyder about his ownership tenure. Rivera said they went through every aspect of the organization.
“That’s what I was really impressed with. He was willing to sit there and go through it piece by piece, and we truly did,” Rivera said. “We talked an awful lot about those things. We talked about the things that he’s learned, and he’s grown as a person and as an owner. It was a very frank conversation. He was very honest, very upfront and very candid.”
After watching six games of tape on the Redskins, Rivera said he became convinced he could win with this roster. A few of his players attended Thursday’s news conference, including running backs Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. New defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio also sat in the first row.
Rivera also said Dwayne Haskins could become a franchise-type quarterback. However, Rivera said he wanted to feel more comfortable before making any sort of decision about his signal-caller. Case Keenum and Colt McCoy will become free agents, and Alex Smith is still recovering from a broken fibula and tibia.
However, Rivera said, “One thing I will do — and I do want to do — is, once we feel comfortable, go ahead and make that decision so we can go forward and give these guys the opportunity to develop.”
But, mostly, Rivera liked Snyder’s message throughout the courtship. Other coaches have, too.
“I can tell you right now it’s not about the money,” Rivera said. “If I wanted the money, I would still be out there and pit a couple teams against each other.”
That never happened because Rivera became convinced that he could be the one to crack the code at Redskins Park. And those close to him say seeing Snyder get emotional about the franchise during their meetings helped win him over.
“I told him I didn’t want to go through a five-year rebuilding process,” Rivera said. “I don’t have the patience, and from what I’ve read, neither does he. So we understand that.
“He said, ‘I want this to be the last job you have in the NFL. I want you to go from coaching the Redskins to collecting Social Security.’ I turn 58 next week, so I’m getting close.”
At his final news conference in Carolina, Rivera had said he would look for the right fit.
“I really believe this is the right fit. I’m excited about it,” Rivera said. “We’ll know in a few years.”