Column: Can one man save Washington’s NFL team from more defeat?
The odds aren’t in favor of a change in the team’s culture and fortunes
Washington’s NFL team is one of the worst teams in the league, and the future of the franchise is not one that is all that bright. On top of not winning a playoff game since 2005, Washington has had a losing record over the past three seasons, the worst of which was its 3-13 record last year.
Washington’s issues extend far beyond the field, however, as the toxic culture surrounding the team is one of the worst in the entire world of sports. The team has been embroiled in multiple controversies over its culture, from its previous derogatory and racist name to the multiple allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse against employees, by former staffers of the team.
To put it simply, the team has lately been shrouded in chaos. Yet it has made one decision that will likely help them in the long run.
In January, Washington hired veteran head coach Ron Rivera to take the reins of this downtrodden team. Rivera has a long history with the NFL, both as a player and a coach. As a player, he won a Super Bowl with Mike Ditka, the legendary former Chicago Bears coach. However, Rivera is best known for being the former head coach of the Carolina Panthers.
With the Panthers, Rivera is lauded as creating one of the best team cultures in all of sports, and doing it essentially from scratch. This led him to two Associated Press NFL Coach of the Year awards during his tenure, along with a championship appearance in Super Bowl 50.
“You could be the 53rd man on the roster,” former Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said of Ron Rivera, according to The Washington Post. “If he can help those guys, he’s going to. That’s why people follow him and gravitate toward him, and they fall in love with Coach Rivera.”
The culture Rivera built at Carolina is in stark contrast to the one he has inherited in Washington.
Changing the culture of Washington’s NFL Team is going to be a task that requires herculean efforts, but Ron Rivera is not going to back down from the challenge.
“There are certain rules and certain attitudes I want to make sure everyone understands as we go forward,” Rivera told ESPN. “I want everybody to think before they do anything, ‘Is what I am about to do going to help us win?’ If you pause for a second and think about that, it helps give clarity.”
If anyone can fix both the toxic culture and the on-field aspects of the team, it’s Ron Rivera. His experience and determination to bring about change in the organization can only lead to good things. However, only time will tell if he alone is able to fix this crumbling team.