The Washington Commanders lost on Thursday night. The Washington Commanders are lost. Sitting at 2-3 on the season might not look bad on paper, but scratch the surface and you’ll find a football team devoid of identity or purpose. An organization that needed to turn a new leaf in 2023 finds itself sleepwalking through the season in an endless spiral of inconsistency, and worst of all head coach Ron Rivera is repeating history in the worst ways.

It’s tough to talk about the need for the Commanders to fire Rivera, because truly he is one of the nicest men in the NFL. He’s certainly the nicest coach I have ever met, who greets everyone he meets with a warm voice and a firm handshake — a man who seems to take genuine interest in everyone around him. The truth is, Rivera might be too nice for the NFL, and that’s his biggest downfall.

The expectation on Thursday Night Football was that Rivera would blank the hapless Bears. After all, this was a team that pushed the Eagles to overtime in Week 4, while Chicago collapsed against another of the worst teams in the league in Denver. This was supposed to be a exclamation point, where the Commanders stepped on their opponents’ throats and started a run to the playoffs. Instead the puctuation mark we got was a question mark, as Justin Fields and D.J. Moore teamed up to dismantle the Washington defense piece by piece, without necessarily really having to work for it.

There are no excuses for the failures on either side of the ball against the Bears. Just lingering questions. How could this team not do something to slow down Moore considering he was the only receiving threat Chicago had? How did this team manage to get so little pressure on the quarterback? What happened that led to Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson get reduced to non-factors against one the worst pass defenses in the NFL?

All these questions get kicked up the chain to one man, and Rivera didn’t really have answers.

“It’s not good enough,” head coach Ron Rivera said after the loss. “It starts with me and we’re going to go back and look at a lot of things and we’re going to get some things corrected and we’ll go out and we’ll play football.”

Anyone who’s followed Rivera’s career trajectory for any period of time knows that this is his modus operandi. The man has an old school approach to football that believes in keeping things in house, never throwing anyone under the bus, and being quiet about the problems happening behind the scenes. It’s noble, but nobility doesn’t make fans feel better — and Rivera has been singing this same tune since his time with the Carolina Panthers.

Many of those same issues have carried over. He’s extremely hesitant to make personnel changes mid-season, even when his team is struggling. This is how you see a team continue to bash its head against the wall with Sam Howell instead of trying to make a spark with Jacoby Brissett. Rivera will never slander his friends, which is why Jack del Rio isn’t being called out for his lack of adjustment and middling defense. Despite once earning the nickname “Riverboat Ron” for gambling on short 4th downs with Cam Newton under center, he’s a meticulously risk-averse coach who routinely tends to manage games like he’s terrified everything is going wrong.

There is nothing worse in the NFL than passivity, and Rivera is simply too passive. Panthers fans saw this in Carolina. The only two people in the organization during Rivera’s time who had a commitment to excellence were Cam Newton and Steve Smith, and it became incumbent on them to get the locker room in line, rather than it coming from the top. This bled throughout the organization. Rivera’s coordinators were safe to underperform knowing the head coach would have their back, and any players who weren’t motivated by Newton or Smith would be content with mediocrity, feeling a similar level of protection that the coach wouldn’t bench them.

There’s virtue to having a steady hand and not overreacting to one game, but Rivera too often pushes that to the extreme and allows those around him to settle.

The truth is that Week 5 is too early for a new owner to shake up the organization too much, but it should happen. It’s unlikely Josh Harris will fire Rivera yet, especially when he was seen laughing in the owner’s box while watching his team get blown out. It might not be fair to heap too much meaning on one moment, but it was a bad look while fans were suffering.

This is a team with the ultimate gift: A coach in waiting. Every football fan on the planet knows Eric Bieniemy deserves a head coaching job, and perhaps the only bright spot of the Commanders this season is how much juice the offensive coordinator has managed to squeeze out of Howell. It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s impossible to imagine anyone else maximizing Howell’s skills like Bieniemy has.

We don’t know what his vision for the team would look like, but from everything we know about Bieniemy as a coach he has a history for being tough on players, demanding everyone step up, and most importantly take accountability for their own failings. He’s the breath of fresh air the Commanders need right now, because as it stands it’s impossible to imagine this Rivera-led team getting past the Cowboys or Eagles in the NFC East.

It’s tough to discuss firing Rivera. It’s difficult because of his demeanor and personal story, but if the coach is truly going to be honest with himself and look at every aspect of the team Rivera will learn that he’s the problem. Sure, he might not be why the team is losing right now — but his approach to football has led to this team having no fire or drive.

We’ve approached the point where the Commanders need a new coach in charge, before the passivity in the organization turns into apathy by the fans.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *