- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 2, 2020

ASHBURN — Dressed in a gray suit, wearing a burgundy tie and a Redskins pin, Ron Rivera hardly needed the microphone in front of him. His voice carried throughout the auditorium, his tone rising as he spoke about the reasons he took the job.

It wasn’t money that attracted him to Washington, he said.

Rather, Rivera detailed the “perspective” owner Dan Snyder shared with him while recruiting the former Carolina Panthers coach.

“He told me the common factor in that transitional success for teams like the Patriots, Seahawks and Chiefs and some other ones was the decision to take it and make it a coach-centered approach,” Rivera said. “Not an owner-centered approach or a team president or a GM, but a coach-centered approach.”

On the day Rivera was officially introduced as his next football coach, Snyder said Thursday the Redskins needed a “new culture” — praising the 57-year-old as the right man for the job.

Snyder, in his brief introduction, also said the franchise will be “coach-centered” going forward.

“One thing that is very, very important, we’re going to have one voice and one voice alone,” Snyder said. “And that’s the coach’s.”

Whether that happens remains to be seen. Former coaches like Mike Shanahan and Jay Gruden have taken the Redskins’ position with similar hopes of turning a franchise around.

Shanahan ended up feuding with Snyder and former team president Bruce Allen by the end of his tenure, and Gruden said on a podcast recently the priority for his next job would be to surround himself with “the right people.”

But Thursday’s press conference didn’t dwell on past failures. Instead, the focus was on the future under Rivera. Words like “accountability” and “culture” were used — the latter of which was uttered eight times in a 25-minute span.

There were some awkward moments — like when Snyder opened the presser by saying “Happy Thanksgiving” to the crowd (a spokesman said later it was a “joke to break the tension”) and when Rivera couldn’t find a stage-prop jersey during his remarks.

Rivera said he did his research before taking Snyder’s offer. Fired Dec. 3 after eight-plus seasons with the Panthers, Rivera said Snyder reached out to his agent the Friday after his dismissal. By Monday, the two men were on the phone, talking for 40 minutes.

After studying game tape to evaluate the Redskins’ roster — including their win over his own Panthers (“This team got me unemployed. We’re good now,” he joked) — he said he sees a team stacked with veteran leadership and raw talent.

He said the development of quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who just finished his rookie season, would be a priority, but stopped well short of saying the 2019 first-round pick is the team’s starters next season.

“I think he can become a franchise-style quarterback,” Rivera said.

Nor did Rivera commit to retaining offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, who has been given the OK to talk with other teams.

Jack Del Rio, the former head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders, was named defensive coordinator earlier Thursday and joined Rivera at the press conference.

Rivera estimated he and Snyder met for “30 to 35 hours” before he took the job.

“He said, ‘Coach, I want this to be the last job you ever have in the NFL. I want you to go from coaching the Redskins, to collecting Social Security,’” Rivera said. “I turn 58 next week, so I’m getting close. But that sounded pretty good to me.”

Rivera vowed to instill a culture of accountability in Ashburn. He told reporters he grew up in a military family where discipline wasn’t taught — it was lived.

With several current star players sitting in the front rown — including Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice and Jonathan Allen — Rivera said the team would be “player-centered” as well.

Peterson said he liked what he heard, particularly when Rivera spoke about winning the Super Bowl.

“That’s my mentality,” Peterson said. “A lot of people, say, ‘Well you guys are young,’ well going through this season and being here for two years … I know we have talent to be a championship team. Hopefully, this is a huge step in the right direction.”

The Redskins have much to do to become a championship contender, including adding new pieces. As for who will be picking those pieces, that’s another question. The Redskins fired Allen on Monday, though other members of the front office — such as executives Doug Williams and Kyle Smith — were in attendance Thursday.

Asked if he has the final say on personnel control, Rivera said he and the front office will “collaborate” on decisions. If they can’t agree, then they would “ask Mr. Snyder to help,” Rivera said.

Regardless, the decision to give Rivera influence over the roster indicates significant trust in a coach who, despite a 76-63-1 record and a Super Bowl appearance, has never had back-to-back winning seasons. (The Panthers did make the playoffs three straight years, though one of those seasons they finished 7-8-1).

There’s also no guarantee Snyder will stick to his word in letting Rivera be the central voice throughout the organization. Marty Schottenheimer, for instance, was sold similar control, but fired after just one season. Steve Spurrier has also said Snyder didn’t let him pick the quarterback he wanted to play in his two seasons with the franchise.

On Thursday, however, Rivera wasn’t fazed.

“Nobody really knows, but I’ll tell you this: I believe in me,” Rivera said, “and I’ll bet on me.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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