6 thoughts from Ron Rivera’s media session at the Super Bowl
Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera was a busy man on Wednesday. Rivera was named the NFL’s Salute to Service Award winner. In addition, Rivera also met with the media to discuss a number of topics surrounding his team this offseason.
Rivera would talk about quarterback Sam Howell, Chase Young’s fifth-year option, Daron Payne’s free agency and even discussed Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
We offer our thoughts on what Rivera told us Wednesday from Radio Row at Super Bowl LVII.
There will be no big swing on a veteran QB
Cleveland Browns defensive tackle Taven Bryan (99) pressures Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11). Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Two years ago, Rivera signed veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to a modest one-year deal to be Washington’s starting quarterback. He didn’t even make it one half before an injury ended his season — and career. In 2022, Rivera went after Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo and others, before settling on a trade for Carson Wentz.
It backfired miserably.
Rivera announced Washington’s intention for Sam Howell to enter the offseason as the starting quarterback. Howell would need to earn the job, but it didn’t look like he’d need to be worrying about a big-name veteran like Derek Carr coming to town.
The Commanders will be in the mix for re-signing Taylor Heinicke or another experienced passer who can start, such as Jacoby Brissett or Andy Dalton. There will be no big-game hunting this offseason.
Ron Rivera said the Commanders won’t be in the mix for a free agent to be QB1. Sam Howell is the starter as the team enters the offseason. Veteran may be brought in to compete but won’t spend a lot of cap space on position. Opposite of last year. pic.twitter.com/gKvKod5dXJ
— Chris Simms (@CSimmsQB) February 8, 2023
Rivera never ruled out drafting a quarterback
Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports
Washington will sign a veteran to compete with Howell at quarterback — a cheaper veteran. What Rivera didn’t really discuss was adding a rookie in the early rounds of the 2023 NFL draft. You can’t rule that possibility out, but it sounds like the Commanders want to address the roster in free agency so they can take the best players available in the draft.
Would the best-player-available strategy include a quarterback? None of the draft’s top four passers likely makes it to No. 16. However, in ESPN’s latest mock draft, Matt Miller had Florida’s Anthony Richardson sliding to the Commanders. Again, this doesn’t feel likely, but if Richardson does fall and he’s rated highly on your board, you have to take him, right?
That’s a lot of ifs, but teams will spend the next few months preparing for multiple scenarios. The truth is Howell has proven nothing yet, so Washington must consider adding another quarterback in the draft if the value matches up with their board.
The Commanders have struggled to find a franchise quarterback for years. Maybe Howell is the guy. You just don’t know. That’s why you keep taking shots at finding that guy. And it doesn’t even have to be in the first round.
Rivera eventually exercises Chase Young's 5th-year option
Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders talks with Chase Young #99 of the Washington Commanders. (Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images)
Rivera created headlines Wednesday when he said he was undecided on the team picking up defensive end Chase Young’s rookie fifth-year option. The Commanders have until May 1 to make that decision. Rivera said a similar decision worked out with defensive tackle Daron Payne [Washington picked up his option but did not offer him an extension] last season. Payne had a career year and now is slated for free agency. Washington wants to retain Payne.
You could make the argument that Washington shouldn’t pick up Young’s option. He had nine career sacks. However, there are multiple reasons why you do pick up that option. Ultimately, the Commanders will decide to pick up Young’s option as his potential upside is an elite All-Pro defender.
The Commanders have spoken to Daron Payne's representatives
Daron Payne #94 of the Washington Commanders celebrates a sack during the first quarter against the Chicago Bears. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
The Commanders had the chance to offer Payne an extension last offseason but after signing teammate Jonathan Allen to a contract in 2021, Washington chose to let Payne earn it. As with most of the franchise’s gambles, it went against them as Payne had a career year with 11.5 sacks and ended up in the Pro Bowl Games.
Now, if Payne hits the open market next month, he will earn a contract north of $20 million per season. While not quite the overall player that Allen is, it’s about timing for Payne. He had his best year at the perfect time. But don’t mistake Payne for the guy who saved his career year for his contract year. Payne has only missed one career game in five seasons and he’s always played well. Perhaps it was the change in coaches, or just everything coming together at the right time, but it all worked out for Payne.
According to Rivera, Washington has reached out to Payne’s reps, but contract terms haven’t been discussed — yet. The Commanders can place the franchise tag on Payne, which will cost over $18 million in 2023. Allen’s contract averages $18 million per season. If Washington wants to retain Payne, negotiations must begin at $19 million per season.
The most likely outcome is the franchise tag for Payne. It gives both sides more time to work something out. One thing is certain, Washington can’t wait to talk contract details with Payne. This administration has often waited too long and it’s cost them.
Just wrapped up a conversation with Ron Rivera. Reiterated that Howell will go into the OTA workouts as the QB to beat. Said they will not spend big capital like last year on a QB. Said they have reached out to Daron Payne's reps, but no $$ yet discussed.
— John Keim (@john_keim) February 8, 2023
Eric Bieniemy is the plan at offensive coordinator
Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs. (Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images)
Rivera was candid about his interest in Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy as Washington’s next offensive coordinator. Washington has interviewed six candidates thus far but has waited on Bieniemy who is believed to have interest in Washington. How much interest? Well, that’s uncertain.
“I’m hoping to get the chance,” Rivera said about speaking to Bieniemy next week, per Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Obviously he knows my situation, he knows my circumstances, but, you know, I haven’t been able to talk to him because by rule, you can’t, and that’s football. So we’ll wait for the right opportunity.”
Rivera hasn’t waited this long if he doesn’t believe he has a chance to land Bieniemy. While Rivera’s contract status may be a concern, if Bieniemy is confident he can win with Washington’s offense, everybody wins in the long run.
Rivera talked offensive philosophy
Jahan Dotson #1 of the Washington Commanders looks on during the second half of the game against the Dallas Cowboys. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Remember general manager Martin Mayhew’s comments last month about wanting a 2-to-1 run-to-pass ratio? Yeah, it didn’t go over too well, with many criticizing it. After all, this is the modern NFL, and you can’t win that way every week.
Rivera talked about what he was looking for in an offensive coordinator, and he walked back from Mayhew’s comments a bit.
Here are Rivera’s comments, courtesy of Phillips, that I found most interesting:
What I’m looking for is somebody that can tell me what I think is going to match with the ability to get the ball to our playmakers the way that we need to have it done. That’s creating explosives with the quick passing game off of play action, then taking the occasional vertical shot. Running the football to help create opportunities.
I’m looking for that quick passing game. Something that was really shown in the Dallas game was Jahan Dotson caught two quick slants that turned into almost 50 yards of offense, just on two plays. And it’s one of those things, you go, that’s what you like.
That’s refreshing to hear. Rivera knows Washington has some really talented skill players at receiver, running back and even tight end. You need a strong running game, but you also can take your offense to the next level with a strong passing game. Bieniemy, a former running backs coach, knows the running game.
However, Rivera wants to see if Bieniemy can bring some of that Kansas City offense to Washington. Sure, Bieniemy wouldn’t have Patrick Mahomes under center, but the Commanders have talent on offense but need to upgrade the offensive line. If that happens, Bieniemy’s work with Sam Howell would be critical.