These Rivera and Smith stats provide hope for playoff push originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Washington isn’t known for creating many playoff runs, but the ones the organization has orchestrated in the 2000s all share a common theme: They were made possible by hot Decembers.
In 2015, Washington went 3-1 in the last calendar month of the year (and 1-0 in January). In 2012, meanwhile, they posted a 5-0 record. 2007 included a 4-1 stretch to close out the regular season, and 2005 featured a 4-0 streak (along with one last victory in January).
Now, if the franchise wants to notch its fifth postseason berth of the millennium — by the way, if you want to feel intelligent, use that word — they’ll again have to produce in the final month of their schedule.
Fortunately, the Burgundy and Gold has two leaders who are used to doing just that in Ron Rivera and Alex Smith.
When he was running the show in Carolina, Rivera went 24-13 in December. That comes out to a winning percentage of .648, far higher than his overall mark of .533. In his mind, there’s one reason why he’s so successful to close things out.
“Growth,” Rivera said last week. “I think because our players get more and more experience and learn more and more. Each season is different. Each season has its own personality.”
The coach has opined a few times on the importance of his charges having “aha moments,” where they realize why the staff asks them to do certain things or how to better handle their duties like run defending or route running. Naturally, the later into a year a roster gets, the more of those moments they’ll register.
As for Smith, he’s someone who’s accustomed to bookending campaigns with a lot of Ws. The quarterback’s win percentage in December is .575, which is just a few ticks below his .578 clip in September, his best month. This’ll be his first time leading Washington in December, due to his injury and subsequent rehab.
Perhaps the most promising part of all of this is that the Football Team doesn’t necessarily need Rivera and Smith to perform up to their usual winter standards. Because of how the division is shaping up, a 2-3 finish could be enough to push them into the playoffs, and a 3-2 total would have them feeling really, really good.
For what is an otherwise very young collection of players, Washington is led on the sidelines and on the field by a pair of qualified guys who are especially proficient when the end is near. Should they replicate that once more, then maybe the end of 2020 isn’t as near as the majority projected just a few weeks ago.