Ron Rivera came to Washington this offseason not knowing what to expect. As it turns out, he had a hard task to help a franchise that has dealt with a number of scandals and a massive name change.
Rivera, who has been a coach on many teams dating back to 1997, hasn't dealt with these challenges before, but it seems like he is the right coach to face them. Rivera was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks before the season, but that wasn't enough to stop Rivera from coaching. Rivera, who is 58 years old, said his therapies will consist of five days of treatment per week for seven weeks and will include proton therapy and "some other stuff involved". He also said doctors recommended he continue to work "at a good pace, a smart pace" while still following all health protocols and receiving treatment.
Week 1 of the NFL season started for Rivera when the Washington Football Team hosted the Philadelphia Eagles. Rivera made out a plan before the game started to keep himself healthy. Regardless of how the first half went, he, the team doctors and head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion would get the team’s first-year coach an IV once everyone got settled in the locker room, a measure he’d take to deal with the effects of his ongoing battle with squamous cell cancer.
Fast forward to halftime, the Football Team went into the locker room down 17-7 against the Eagles. Before Rivera went to get his IV treatment at halftime, he went over to his senior director of player development:
“I leaned over to Malcom and I said, Hey get somebody to step up now,” Rivera recounted on Sunday night, as he drove home from FedEx Field. “We needed somebody to step up through halftime.”
The player that stepped up was Dwayne Haskins, who is the Football Team's starting QB.
Rivera said in his press conference, “And there’s a high-pitched voice just going at it, going at it,” Rivera continued. “And they told me it was Dwayne Haskins. He’d challenged the team.”
As it turned out, no one told Haskins he had to do anything. But over the last six months, Rivera has challenged him to lead, and mostly Rivera wanted that to happen by example. He’s since seen it from his 22-year-old quarterback, who’s done it by losing weight, getting in his playbook and organizing workouts with young receivers locally when the COVID-19 situation was taking place.
The turnaround began when corner Fabian Moreau intercepted Carson Wentz with a few minutes left in the first half. It led to a Dwayne Haskins-to-Logan Thomas touchdown pass. From that point forward, Washington dominated. The Eagles gained 175 yards in the first half and finished with 265 for the game. Washington running back Peyton Barber broke a 17-17 tie with a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. It came two plays after Rivera eschewed an easy field goal by going for it on fourth-and-1.
The final score was 27-17, as Washington upset Philadelphia. Ron Rivera proved to be a great coach from the start. Not just with his play-calling, but also with his leadership. From battling cancer, all the way to dealing with boatloads of interviews about Washington's scandals, Rivera has proved to be the perfect coach.
Some coaches may be really smart and really good play callers, but can they really deal with scandals and cancer all at once?
Rivera may be the next big thing for the Washington Football Team!
Isaac Edelman covers the South Florida sports teams and the Mets as well as other breaking news stories and opinions on Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL, and the NHL on his SportsCastr live streaming channel.