The Washington Commanders shocked the NFL by firing head coach Ron Rivera on Monday after four seasons with the team. Rivera led Washington to an 8-8-1 record in 2022 and a 31-32-1 mark overall since taking over in 2020.
The move signals a new direction under the team’s recently new ownership group led by Joshua Harris and comes as Washington looks to change the culture and return to consistent contention.
Rivera Dismissed After Meeting with Owners
Rivera was dismissed in an early morning meeting with Harris and co-CEO Jason Wright a day after Washington concluded its season with a 26-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.
In a statement, Harris explained the desire for sweeping changes:
“Dan and Tanya sent Ron Rivera and the team on a mission four years ago to change the culture and direction of this franchise. We owe them our gratitude for that. However, I believe it is time for a fresh start and new leadership. I want to rebuild the organization with a foundation of high character, transparency and teamwork.”
Harris purchased the team in 2022 along with billionaire David Blitzer after the previous controversial ownership of Dan Snyder.
Rivera released his own statement on Twitter thanking fans and reflecting on his tenure in Washington:
“I’m most disappointed for the players and coaches who poured their hearts into winning…I’m proud of the progress we made on and off the field, but I understand more needs to be done. I wish nothing but the best for the organization moving forward.”
Search for New Coach and Front Office Leadership Begins
To aid their search for a new head coach and general manager, Washington has enlisted former Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers and former Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman as advisors.
Myers was the architect behind the dominant Warriors teams that won 4 NBA championships between 2015-2022. Harris said Myers “knows what best-in-class looks like” and called Spielman “one of the most respected evaluators in the sport.”
Among early candidates for the head coach opening are Michigan defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald, Kansas City OC Eric Bieniemy, and former Colts/Lions head coach Jim Caldwell. University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh has also been speculated given his NFL experience.
|Prior NFL Experience
|None as HC
|Former Colts/Lions HC
|HC record 62-50
|49ers HC 2011-2014
For the GM position, San Francisco 49ers assistant GM Adam Peters has been linked given his ties with Myers from their time together in Golden State.
Whoever takes over will inherit a team with talent at key positions but that has severely underachieved compared to lofty preseason expectations in recent years. Paramount will be finding the right quarterback after trading for Carson Wentz last offseason failed to solve passing game issues.
Reviewing Rivera’s Tenure
Rivera was brought in by previous owner Dan Snyder in January 2020 to establish a “winning culture” in Washington after years of instability. Rivera had a strong resume from his 9 seasons coaching the Carolina Panthers, including an NFL Coach of the Year award in 2015.
Rivera’s first season in 2020 was a struggle as Washington posted a 5-11 record during the COVID-impacted year. However, they rebounded to win the NFC East in 2021 with a 7-9 mark behind an opportunistic defense and earned Riveraa another Coach of the Year award.
Hopes entering 2022 were high after trading for Wentz, but the team disappointed again with up-and-down play. Costly penalties, inconsistent offense, and special teams mishaps plagued the group as fans grew restless.
Rivera brought accountability and professionalism when he joined the organization. But new ownership clearly desired more on-field success and judged the current setup unlikely to deliver that.
What Comes Next for Washington
The Commanders will now dive into a full revamp, searching not only for Rivera’s replacement but also likely turning over much of the front office. Harris has spoken about modelling elements of championship organizations like the Warriors and LA Dodgers as he puts his stamp on the franchise.
All eyes will be on the head coach and quarterback decisions in the coming weeks. Whoever comes aboard will need to quickly pivot to crucial roster evaluation ahead of free agency in March. Then, attention shifts to the draft where Washington holds the 16th overall selection.
In the short-term, the Rivera firing may add even more instability. Long-suffering Washington fans will need to have patience as Harris methodically puts the pieces in place for what he hopes becomes a consistent winner. For the first time in over 2 decades though, there is optimism real change has finally arrived.
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