- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2020

ASHBURN — Jack Del Rio understands how to navigate a team that isn’t his. Seven years ago, Del Rio was the defensive coordinator in Denver when Broncos coach John Fox underwent heart surgery and missed a month. The Broncos turned to Del Rio, leaning on his previous head coaching experience to help keep the team steady while Fox recovered.

The situation was why Washington coach Ron Rivera, dealing with a cancer diagnosis, felt comfortable having Del Rio as the team’s “Plan B” should his health prevent him from coaching at any point this season.

When the two met to discuss the contingency, Del Rio emphasized one thing: He’ll do whatever is needed.

“I fully support him,” Del Rio said Thursday. “ I assured him that he has put together a good staff and we kind of have our marching orders and know what’s expected of us. He can anticipate that we will carry on.”

Those “marching orders” will entail running the franchise in Rivera’s image. 



Individual coaches tend to have their own ways of doing things.
That applies to both Del Rio, who has served as a head coach in Jacksonville and Oakland, and Rivera. But Del Rio said Rivera has been clear in communicating how the team should run if, or when, he’s away — and what the coach will be looking for.

Del Rio believes he doesn’t have to worry about their ideologies clashing.

“Fortunately, we’re pretty close,” Del Rio said. “We, in a lot of cases, see things very similarly.”

Rivera and Del Rio share the same beliefs when it comes to the fundamentals of football — namely players should play fast and do their job. 

The two men have formed a close relationship. 

Rivera trusts Del Rio to help transform a defense that ranked 24h in defensive DVOA (efficiency) last year. And despite Rivera’s defensive background — he was a linebacker for nine seasons in the NFL and a former defensive coordinator — Rivera let Del Rio know that Washington will be running Del Rio’s scheme and playbook.

When he was with the Carolina Panthers, Rivera admitted that one of the biggest mistakes he made was not having an assistant with previous head coaching experience. Rivera was a first-time head coach and on his initial staff, he didn’t have that person to lean on. 

With Washington, Rivera said he was determined not to make the same error again. The 58-year-old cited a saying — “Don’t draw me a map unless you’ve been there” — and said Del Rio has been there.

For now, Del Rio’s marching orders are to lead the defense. 

Roster cuts are looming with the league’s deadline for teams to narrow down to 53 players by Saturday, and Rivera and his coaching staff are in the process of deciding which players to keep.

Throughout his press conference, Del Rio offered little evaluation of specific players, but said he has seen progress in the unit as a whole. Del Rio has repeatedly said that potential is essentially meaningless and it will be up to the team to prove it can execute on game days.

He reiterated that belief on Thursday.

“I think fans can be excited about us getting beyond potential and begin getting to perform,” Del Rio said. “The way you perform is you play fast on defense and you tackle well. So we’re going to play fast. And guys are going to know what to do and they’re going to go there fast. … That’s what we’re all about.”

 

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