Written By: Devin Garner
After ousting former head coach Jay Gruden in the middle of the 2019 season, the Washington Football Team seemed to be at a crossroads. Not only was the team struggling on the field, they were also struggling off the field with numerous conduct violations. Washington knew that they must hire a head coach who could change the culture of the team while also being a stabilizing figure, something that the team has not had for many years. Therefore, owner Daniel Synder went out and hired former head coach of the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera as the new head coach. After a 27 to 17 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at FedexField on Sunday, Sept. 13, it appears that the Washington Football Team might have finally found the right coach for the job.
Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in a lymph node in the Summer, but stated that he still has plans on coaching his football team. However, he did acknowledge that he would be occasionally unable to attend practices, which would leave veteran defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in charge of the team’s operations. Even though Rivera has begun his treatments, he still found a way to coach and inspire his players in their victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, snapping the six-game win streak that Philadelphia had previously held against Washington.
On Sunday, the head coach’s first challenge came when he was unable to address his team at halftime due to the fact that he had to receive an IV for his cancer treatment. In Rivera’s absence, second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins stepped up and addressed his team as they were down at halftime. Les Carpenter of “The Washington Post” states that, “the fact it was Dwayne Haskins, the team’s 23-year-old, second-year quarterback and the player that Rivera has perhaps pushed hardest to be a leader, seemed to please [Rivera] more.”
While the team started out slow in the first half facing a 17 point deficit early, many Washington Fans considered this season to be a repeat of last season, when the team finished 3 and 13. However, in the hands of the new and experienced coaching staff and with the help of the stacked defensive line, Washington was able to rally together a win for their team, their city and most importantly, their ailing head coach.
The defensive line was a major factor in Washington’s victory. With the addition of second overall pick and Ohio State phenom, Chase Young, the defense looks nearly unstoppable. The Washington defense sacked Philadelphia quarterback Carson Wentz eight times for a loss of 62 yards, according to “CBS Sports.” Every player on the Washington front looked impressive, however, Ryan Kerrigan and Chase Young stuck out. According to “Pro Football Focus,” Young was the highest graded rookie in the first week of play. In addition, Ryan Kerrigan surpassed Washington great Dexter Manley on the all-time sack leaderboard with 92 sacks. When asked about his feelings about standing atop the all-time Washington leaderboard on sacks, Kerrigan had glowing remarks in his interview with “106.7: The Fan.” He stated, “I did not know what to expect when I was drafted here in 2011. I wanted to come in and be a contributor, and now to be at the top of the sack list of the franchise’s history… to think about guys that have come through here, like Dexter, it’s pretty cool.” Numerous other members of the defensive line made their presence felt as well, such as Montez Sweat, Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen.
Regardless of what the predictions are for the team for the rest of the season, it is important that fans appreciate what the team did in week one. Behind their new coaching staff, newly schemed offense and defense and a second-year quarterback at the helm of the team, Washington was able to do something that they had not been able to do for the last couple of years: beat the Philadelphia Eagles. Rivera has kept one goal in mind throughout his brief tenure in Washington and he vows to keep it that way. His goal is to establish a culture. According to Les Carpenter of “The Washington Post,” “So much of this year for Rivera is about creating a culture upon which the team can build into a winner.”
Whether or not the team is able to have a winning season, the fans must sit back and appreciate the leadership of head coach Ron Rivera. He is building the team into a contender that will be built to win for years to come.