The Redskins entered into the NFL’s free agency period long on cash and short on playmakers. Washington looked poised to spend big money and add some sizzle to their organizational rebuild.
Except that didn’t happen.
Kendall Fuller marked the Redskins biggest deal in free agency, and on the list of big money given out to defensive players, Fuller’s deal doesn’t crack the front page. The Redskins made no headlines, though they did try hard to get Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper.
In the end, however, Washington didn’t do much.
And new boss Ron Rivera doesn’t care how that gets perceived as he sets out to turn the Redskins into consistent winners.
“The truth of the matter is there is no time frame, there really isn’t, but I do know that it’s got to happen soon, I can tell you that much. I understand I get that part of it. But it’s not going to happen overnight,” Rivera said this week. “What we need is we need everybody to come in and understand what the vision is and they’ve got to buy into what the vision is going to be. Once they’ve done that, it gives us an opportunity to be successful.”
For much of the past 10 years, the Redskins cared about perception and lacked a clear vision. Bruce Allen was the architect of most of that era. He cared about “winning” personnel moves, turning things from opportunistic to antagonistic. How things appeared mattered, greatly at times, even though the actual results were often bad.
The Redskins weren’t close, but Allen said they were. The Redskins didn’t have a good culture, but Allen said they did. The Redskins weren’t winning off the field, as if that mattered, but Allen said it anyway.
Rivera isn’t saying much, but what he is saying shows he doesn’t care about the perception around his first offseason as the leader of the organization.
Did the Redskins pay too much for Kyle Allen, sending a fifth-round pick to Carolina for a potential backup quarterback that the Panthers likely would have cut? Rivera doesn’t care.
“I mean he’s the right kind of person for that room and that’s what I felt really strongly about and that’s why we were able to make the deal with Carolina to bring him in,” the coach said of the trade.
Did the Redskins get enough back by trading away cornerback Quinton Dunbar for just a fifth-round pick? Rivera doesn’t care.
“He was looking for something that we weren’t prepared to give and that was a new contract. He had a year left on his contract. We didn’t know him and just felt that because of that situation and circumstances – his agent and his attitude just didn’t seem to change. We just felt that we were going to move in another direction, so we decided to move on. We felt good about the fact that we got what he was valued. Fair value for a college free agent player that came out and had played well.”
What about Trent Williams, the mega-talent left tackle that held out all of 2019 and now very publicly wants to be traded or released? Rivera doesn’t care.
“We’re not quite sure what’s going to happen at the end of the line. He is a player under contract. He is a Washington Redskin, and we’re going to leave it at that and just see how things unfold.”
This list can go on and on, but the frank reality coming to light for Redskins fans is that Rivera is building this team, his team, with his vision. He didn’t care about the reaction when he hired unproven Scott Turner as offensive coordinator back in January, and he doesn’t care that technically his team is now operating without a general manager.
Rivera doesn’t care that some people question his relationship with team owner Dan Snyder either. Plenty of former Redskins coaches thought their relationship with Snyder was strong too, right up until it wasn’t. It’s too premature to question that now, but Rivera’s honest assessment of the situation did seem different.
“We talk through things, I’ve asked him for advice on certain things and certain issues. For the most part he’s letting us do our thing,” Rivera said of the team’s owner. “He’ll call in and just ask how things are going, what do you think, where are you guys now, more so than anything else. Like I said the conversation is daily, to almost every other day. It’s been good, it really has.”
What happens on the field will likely drive Rivera’s relationship with Snyder, just like it will with Redskins fans.
That seems like the one perspective Rivera cares about, the team’s fanbase. Once among the proudest in the NFL, Washington fans have been dragged through more than their share of rough times, and it’s starting to reflect at FedEx Field.
Rivera wants that changed, but the coach understands the team needs to hit a level of play that shows promise.
“We also need to have the fans get behind us. It’s one of the things that I was very fortunate to happen for us when we were in Carolina. Our first two years we showed promise. We gave fans a reason to come out and cheer for us.”
Actions matter far more than words in the NFL, and considering the Redskins lack of major moves so far, it seems Rivera is taking a wait-and-see approach to the 2020 season to determine what players will be part of the long-term future in Washington.
That doesn’t mean much for playoff prospects this year, or much more than the foundation of a rebuilding project. That’s an honest look at what Washington has, considering the offense has real questions at quarterback and major holes at left tackle and tight end. Defensively things should be better, and maybe quick, but the secondary still has big questions.
So, why didn’t Rivera try to fix more this offseason?
“One of the things that we tried to do when I was in Carolina, we looked at guys and I.D. guys that were on the cusp of becoming solid starters,” he said. “Not a flash in the pan type guy that you’re hoping for, but a guy who’s done it steadily over a couple of years. We I.D. a few of those guys and we went out and brought those guys in and had them become a part of our football team. We feel good about the young guys. We feel good about some of the veteran guys. We think it’s a good mix right now.”
Above all else, through more than three months under Rivera’s leadership, the Redskins appear to have a long-term vision in place. The team missed on Cooper but didn’t chase the next wideout available. It wasn’t about just signing somebody, it was about signing the right guy, and once Cooper was gone the big money didn’t need to get spent.
Rivera must feel confident in his approach, and confident that he will have the time to see that approach through.
“As we develop and grow, it’s not going to happen overnight,” the coach said. “That’s one of the things that we feel we have more time to be patient and develop these guys.”
Whatever you think about the Redskins approach to 2020 so far, Rivera doesn’t care. He wants to show results, and while that may take time, actions clearly speak volumes more than words.
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