Mike Tirico: Ron Rivera 'has been a godsend' for Commanders originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
It's been just over two and a half years since Ron Rivera took over as the head coach for Washington's NFL franchise. But since then, he's had to deal with way more than his fair share of off-the-field issues and events related to the organization.
Before Rivera even coached a game for Washington, the team retired its old logo and moniker. An 18-month rebrand process followed. The NFL launched an investigation into the franchise's toxic workplace culture, which led to owner Dan Snyder being fined $10 million. Earlier this summer, following a Congressional investigation of that same workplace culture, Snyder was called to testify in front of Congress' Oversight Committee. And this past Sunday, rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr. was shot twice as the victim of an attempted carjacking.
All this goes without mentioning that Rivera had to deal with his own major health scare. Just weeks before the 2020 season, he was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma, a rare form of cancer. Rivera underwent chemotherapy for roughly two months and eventually was declared cancer-free, but he still feels some of the long-term effects today.
Despite everything that's gone on in Ashburn since the head coach arrived, NBC Sports' Mike Tirico feels Rivera has done an excellent job of keeping the team's focus on football.
"With everything going around the organization -- a lot of it's been negative -- having Ron Rivera there has been a godsend," Tirico told NBC4's Moises Linares.
"Ron Rivera is one of the most respected, one of the most stable, one of the most honest guys in the league," Tirico continued. "I think Ron's veteran presence and experience has kept this from getting onto the field. I think if there are other issues with the franchise, as there have been played out very publicly, a lot of times that can seep into the locker room and the field. I think Ron has done an exceptional job of keeping that at bay."
Rivera's ability to prevent the organization's off-the-field distractions from impacting the locker room has gone a long way. In 2020, the team was able to rally around its head coach and earn an improbable NFC East title -- one of the best storylines in the NFL that season.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, who's been with the franchise since 2017, said earlier this week he's used to compartmentalizing and focusing on his job at hand, rather than what's going on away from the field.
"It's my job. People make a big deal about the adversity the Commanders have been facing, but at the end of the day, we're professional athletes, and we get paid to play football," Allen said Monday. "That's what I'm going to do - no matter how much adversity we deal with off the field. I'm not going to let it affect me on the field."
On the field, the 2022 season is a big one for Rivera and the Commanders. The head coach has made it clear he expects the franchise to take a leap this fall, his third year in charge. In Carolina, Rivera's team made a big jump in Year 3 as well before making the Super Bowl two seasons later.
For as good of a job as Rivera's done handling Washington's off-the-field distractions, Tirico says the head coach knows he must start to produce results.
The Commanders' 2021 season was a disappointing one, as they failed to build off their division title the previous year. After trading for quarterback Carson Wentz, it's time for Washington to make that jump Rivera believes his team can do.
"Now, you've got to win football games," Tirico said. "Every team says 'we could be this,' but somebody loses every one of these 272 games in the NFL season unless there is a tie. Washington is going to have to get improved play in a few places to help their big name guys do what they can do."