Commanders Fire Coach Ron Rivera as New Ownership Begins Making Changes

WTOP NEWS: The Washington Commanders fired coach Ron Rivera on Monday, the first move of many expected by new owners as they put their stamp on the NFL franchise they bought last year.

The decision came a day after the Commanders’ season-ending 38-10 home loss to division-rival Dallas.

“As we look ahead, we recognize the results this season were not good enough and a strategic shift in leadership and approach is necessary,” controlling owner Josh Harris said in a statement.

Harris said he has asked co-owners Mitch Rales, Magic Johnson and David Blitzer as well as former NBA executive Bob Myers and ex-Minnesota Vikings GM Rick Spielman to work with him in the searches for a head of football personnel and coach. After Dan Snyder hired Rivera four years ago to do both jobs, ownership is now splitting those responsibilities.

Myers served as president of basketball operations and GM of the Golden State Warriors as they won four championships, and he was selected as the league’s executive of the year twice.

General manager Martin Mayhew and a majority of the front office and coaching staff are also expected to go, as Harris and his fellow owners begin shaping the organization less than six months after buying the team from Snyder.

Washington made one playoff appearance, winning an uncharacteristically weak NFC East at 7-9 in 2020, during Rivera’s four seasons in charge of Washington’s football operations. He never had a winning season.

“We did win an NFC East title in 2020, but we fell short since then, and for that, I am truly disappointed,” Rivera said in a statement released by the team. “It wasn’t easy and there is a lot more to be done, but I believe we began to change the culture of this organization in meaningful ways.”

If Rivera does not get another head job in the league, he’ll finish exactly one game under .500 at 102-103-2 in the regular season. Washington was 26-40-1 with Rivera in charge.

“Things kind of didn’t go as we planned,” said Sam Howell, who started every game this season at quarterback. “We didn’t have a great year. It’s always tough. At the end of the day, he’s a good man, a good coach.”

Rivera was hired by Snyder on New Year’s Day 2020, less than a month after the veteran coach was fired by the Carolina Panthers, who he coached to the Super Bowl in the 2015 season. He was handed control in the aftermath of a chaotic era led by president Bruce Allen, which also included plenty of off-field misconduct that Rivera was forced to answer for as the voice of the organization.

“Ron helped navigate this organization through some challenging times,” Harris said. “He is a good man and a thoughtful leader who has positively contributed to this organization and the NFL.”

Tumultuous times were the norm, from two team name changes to the allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace before Rivera’s arrival coming to light in the summer of 2020. Rivera was diagnosed with a form of skin cancer before that season started, and the well-respected former linebacker working through treatment became a source of inspiration for Washington when it made the playoffs.

Away from the practice facility, Snyder became the subject of multiple investigations before selling the team last year to Harris’ group for a record $6.05 billion.

Harris, Rales, Johnson and others buying the team put the focus back on football, to Rivera’s delight. Early in the season, he reveled in a debate about the team’s long snapper as a turning point after years of talk about the sagging attendance, off-field chaos and the ownership change.

Along the way, the play on the field went south after a 2-0 start: a 37-3 drubbing by Buffalo beginning a three-game skid capped by an embarrassing prime-time home loss to previously winless Chicago. The season snowballed to several new low points: a 31-19 defeat at the hands of undrafted rookie quarterback Tommy DeVito and the New York Giants, a 45-10 drubbing at Dallas and an embarrassing home loss to Miami that was fittingly followed by fire alarms going off around the stadium.

It became clear the Commanders were playing out the string. They lost their final eight games to finish 4-13 and are set to pick second in the NFL draft, a spot they could get a franchise quarterback.

Someone other than Rivera will make that selection, with Harris expected to split personnel and head-coaching duties. According to NFL Network, the team already asked the Detroit Lions for permission to speak with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, though contact is not permitted until their season is over.

Asked what he’s proudest of from his time in Washington, Rivera cited team culture and otherwise tried to block out talk about his uncertain future.

“To me it’s always been exciting, a thrill and a honor to be on the field in the NFL,” Rivera said last week. “There’s only 32 of these jobs, there’s only 32 of these teams and you always appreciate that opportunity.”

Players lauded his conduct throughout his final season, with receiver Terry McLaurin saying Rivera never brought a bad attitude and defensive tackle Daron Payne praising the coach’s optimism.

“Everybody in this building loves Ron Rivera as a person and all that,” left tackle Charles Leno said. “But when you’re the leader of a ship, somebody has to go down with it.”

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