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Rivera was 'pissed off' when many counted WFT out after QB change originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
When Ron Rivera made the decision to bench quarterback Dwayne Haskins in favor of Kyle Allen ahead of Washington's Week 5 matchup against the Rams, the head coach cited how the NFC East was wide open. Rivera saw an opportunity for his team and wanted to take advantage of it.
Rivera was scoffed at. Made fun of. How could Washington, a team that finished with just three wins a season ago and had started the 2020 campaign 1-3, believe they could contend for the division title?
Nearly three months later, Rivera's club has a different starting quarterback, Alex Smith, and was crowned division champions. Despite the 7-9 record, Washington accomplished what Rivera set out to do in Week 5.
In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay on Monday, Rivera was asked if he felt vindicated after proving doubters wrong. The head coach said yes, and admitted he was "pissed off" that many counted him out after making that quarterback switch.
"The thing that struck me, in all honesty, when I said it and everybody's reaction towards me. Guys, I've been in this league for 35 years as a coach and as a player and just being around it," Rivera said.
"You would think that I would have enough insight that if I looked at something and said, 'Wow, nobody is running away with it. The best record in our division right now is 1-2-1. Shoot, we got a chance. Why not us?' that people might go, 'Oh, he's on to something,'" Rivera continued. "But people laughed. People scoffed at it. In all honesty, that pissed me off. I just thought, 'OK, we'll see what happens. That's why we'll show up and play.'"
Well, showing up and playing is exactly what Rivera's squad did. Despite getting off to a 2-7 start, Washington then proceeded to win four straight games, including victories over the then-undefeated Steelers and reigning NFC champion 49ers.
Although Washington would drop two of their last three games, Sunday's victory over a depleted Eagles team would clinch their first NFC East title since 2015.
"That's why you play the game, it's to find out," Rivera said. "If we went on what everybody prognosticates and everybody guesses, what everybody analytically says is gonna happen or isn't gonna happen, why would we play the games to begin with then? We play them to find out what's going to happen."
Four months ago, Washington was expected by many to be a team contending for a top-five draft pick. Now, in January, they're hosting a playoff game at FedExField.
As Rivera said last week, Washington is playing with "house money" right now. They've already exceeded all expectations.
"The beauty of professional sports, or sports in general, is you have to play the game," Rivera said. "You can't go off what people say, you can't go on reputation. You have to go on what actually happens. That's why I love playing the game."