‘I’ll bet on me’: New head coach Ron Rivera takes over in Washington

Washington Redskins new head coach Ron Rivera holds up a helmet during a news conference at the team’s NFL football training facility, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Ron Rivera was introduced as the 29th head coach in Washington Redskins history on Thursday.

Rivera comes to D.C. after being fired by the Carolina Panthers in the wake of their Dec. 1 loss to the Burgundy and Gold. And Rivera brings a striking resume: He was a two-time NFL Coach of the Year with the Panthers and took them to Super Bowl 50 in 2016.

As a head coach, he has a career regular-season record of 76 wins, 63 losses and one tie.

Rivera said that team owner Dan Snyder reached out to his agent days after he was let go, and that the two began to talk by phone.

Dan Snyder, Tanya Snyder
Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, left, and his wife Tanya Snyder, listen to head coach Ron Rivera during a news conference at the team’s NFL football training facility, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020 in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The new coach wanted to take his time before choosing his next opportunity, he said. And after spending “30-35 hours” with Snyder, he felt that they shared the same vision and that he was ready to take on the challenge. Rivera also spent time with Redskins Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, who lives in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I’ve had four weeks off. I’m tired of getting up and having to do the dishes,” Rivera said. “I’m serious.”

There are three things that are important to Rivera that he said every team must understand: “Culture, team and family.”

Those are the values that Rivera said then-head coach Andy Reid helped instill in the Philadelphia Eagles — for whom Rivera was an assistant — when they went to three straight NFC Championship games in 2001, 2002 and 2003.

It was during his time with Philadelphia where Rivera said he began to learn what it took for teams to become a consistent contender in the NFL. He said he believes in finding the right players, and making sure he and the coaching staff get the best out of those players.

“We’ve got to stay true to what I believe is a little bit of a philosophy and that is the best team has a great sense of family, the best family has great culture and, within that culture, there’s tremendous character. And that’s what we’ve got to build,” Rivera said.

Snyder introduced Rivera inside a packed auditorium at Redskins Park.

Washington Redskins new head coach Ron Rivera speaks during a news conference at the team’s NFL football training facility, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Former players in attendance included Darrell Green, Ricky Ervins and Ken Harvey. Adrian Peterson, Derrius Guice, Jonathan Allen, Nick Sundberg and Matt Ioannidis were among the current players in attendance, along with Jack Del Rio, who was just hired as the new defensive coordinator.

Snyder began his remarks by wishing everyone a “Happy Thanksgiving!” and thanking Bill Callahan for his service over the last five years.

Snyder called Callahan a “great guy,” but made no mention of Bruce Allen, who was fired Monday as team president after 10 years with the Redskins.

“What the Redskins have needed is a culture change,” Snyder said. “Someone that can bring a winning culture to our organization, and it starts and ends with our head coach.”

With a lot of question marks in the past about who has final say over personnel decisions and who is deciding certain things, Snyder made it clear on Thursday.

“One thing that’s very, very important is that we’re going to have one voice and one voice only, and that’s the head coach,” he said. “I looked for a class act, and that’s how you describe Coach Rivera.”

Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio shakes hands with running back Adrian Peterson before a news conference with new head coach Ron Rivera at the team’s NFL football training facility, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Rivera made it clear that he wasn’t taking this job because of the money, saying that if that was the case, “I’d sill be out there trying to pit a couple teams against each other.”

He took the job after Snyder shared this perspective.

“He told me the common factor in that transitional success of teams like the Patriots, the Seahawks and the Chiefs and some of the other ones is the decision to take it and make it a coach-centered approach. Not an owner-centered approach or a team president or a GM,” Rivera said.

Rivera told Snyder that he appreciated that belief in the head coach, but added, “I told him I would be honored but under one condition: It had to be a player-centered culture.”

He emphasized his military background and said discipline was vital, saying, “It isn’t taught. It’s lived.”

Rivera also said he is excited about the roster he is inheriting, both younger and older players.

He added that he believes quarterback Dwayne Haskins has the potential to become “a franchise quarterback,” but stopped short of handing him the starting job for next season.

Rivera made it clear that his main goal is to build a consistent winner and to win a Super Bowl.

“I know somebody said you shouldn’t say that,” he said. “Well, I’m going to say it because I’m going to put it out there. The thing about it more so than anything else is you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Whether you do or you don’t, we’ll see. You just never know, but you’ve got to be willing to try.”

There have been many that have been hired be the team coach and tried to succeed, but saw their tenures cut short. Rivera is confident and thinks that his time with the Burgundy and Gold will be different.

“I believe in me, and I’ll bet on me,” he said. “I will give you one thing and that is I’m going to work, I’m going to work very hard. I’m going to do the things that I believe, and I’m going to stay true to who I am.”

Did Snyder get it right the 10th time around? As Rivera said, “We’ll see what happens.”

WTOP’s George Wallace reported from Ashburn, Virginia. The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

George Wallace

George Wallace is the WTOP sports director. He began at WTOP on Christmas Day of 2000.

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