Rivera’s mood is turning around right along with his Commanders originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Like any NFL head coach, Ron Rivera is happier after a win than he is following a loss. But during a Monday Zoom press conference with the local media, Rivera wasn’t just happy; he was legitimately vibrant.
Rivera’s upbeat mood was most evident in an exchange where he was virtually asked about Taylor Heinicke’s habit of buying Air Jordan shoes for himself (and, as he’s done lately, for various position groups, too) to celebrate victories. Rivera began to deliver a one-liner, only to then hesitate.
Had this session occurred earlier in the 2022 season when the Commanders were mired in their 1-4 start or if it was taking place in the shadow of yet another negative off-field development, perhaps Rivera would’ve let the moment pass and instead answered in a straightforward manner. On Monday, though, he decided to have fun.
“It’s better than beer,” Rivera said under his breath and with a glance to the side, referencing the quarterback’s beverage of choice for the team’s plane ride home from a triumphant upset in Philadelphia. Reports emerged late last week that Rivera had to fine a couple of guys on his roster for consuming alcohol on the flight, which is prohibited under league rules.
“It’s kind of Taylor’s shtick right now,” Rivera added of Heinicke’s shoe purchasing.
Rivera didn’t stop there, either.
The coach — who opened the presser by asking one reporter who was apparently occupying a lot of real estate on his computer, “How’d you get on the big screen?” — proceeded to explain that, on a recent day at the club’s facility, he wore his own pair of Jordans along with a Heinicke shirt to tease the starting signal-caller.
To finish off the story, he actually turned around in his chair, grabbed the kicks and proudly showed them off on the call.
Again, the man was borderline giddy:
— Ethan Cadeaux (@Ethan_Cadeaux) November 21, 2022
And with the understanding that Washington has much more work to do to remain and hopefully break through in the playoff hunt, Rivera has definitely earned the chance to smile and brag a bit.
This year, Rivera has had to — this is only a broad summation, by the way, and not an official list — guide the Commanders through the shooting of Brian Robinson Jr., help his squad understand the specter of a change in ownership, grieve the loss of his mother and answer for a nasty statement published by the franchise that invoked Robinson’s name for some strange reason.
Despite the many obstacles — plus the typical football drama comprised of injuries and quarterback decisions that has buzzed inside of the organization’s grander issues — Rivera’s largely remained calm. Somehow.
His reward for that steadiness is a Washington outfit that’s captured five of its last six contests — and one that’s boosting his current outlook.
“They are believing in each other,” Rivera said in response to a question about why he seemed so pleased. “They’re believing in what we’ve talked about doing and that’s a plus. I mean, that really is…”
“Hopefully we can continue to maintain that and trying to do it one game at a time, staying focused in one place, that’s important,” he tacked on. “Right now, it is kind of gratifying to be able to do that.”
The Commanders’ handling of the Texans in Week 11 was a representation of the their maturation, per Rivera, considering that it came on the heels of their defeat of the Eagles and could’ve very well been a spot for an uninspired performance.
“The one thing I talked about last week was, I said, ‘Guys, you’ve accomplished something really tremendous and I would hate to think that we would come into a game and have major letdown after such a high moment, so let’s really focus in,'” he recalled. “And they did. And then they came out and they did some really good things.”
As mentioned, Rivera surely won’t (or at least shouldn’t) allow this successful stretch to overshadow Washington’s crucial near-term future.
Yes, his crew is 6-5, but securing an NFC Wild Card berth will require a strong finish to November and run in December as well. Practice will resume on Wednesday, after all, and the feisty Falcons will arrive at FedEx Field on Sunday.
For a boss who’s dealt with a pile of problems in his stint, however — some due to his personal missteps, to be clear, and some due to the foibles of those around him — it was interesting to see him let loose on Monday. Zoom has muted so much dating back to 2020, but the app was no match for Rivera’s optimism.