Redskins head coach Ron Rivera addressed the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis after Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith took the podium on Tuesday. Here are five takeaways from Wednesday's press conference:
1. "Everything is an option."
The Redskins are in a unique position as they decide what to do with the second overall pick in this year's NFL Draft. As Smith said in his introductory press conference, Washington is the first of 32 teams with the three potential options of moving up, trading back or staying put at their current position. Many believe they know which path the team will take; most mock drafts are predicting them to take Ohio State defensive end Chase Young.
But according to Rivera, all routes are being considered.
"Everything is possible, everything is an option," he said. "We're gonna decide as a group and then we'll go forward from there."
With 16.5 sacks last season, Young is a player many consider to be too good of a prospect to pass on at No. 2 and might be "the easiest pick on the board." Although Young will not be participating in drills at the combine, Rivera and his staff have done their research on him. Smith said "everything" stands out about Young when evaluating his measurables and production.
Rivera wasn't specifically asked about Young, but he was questioned about how he weighs drafting a player with Young's potential over trading back for more picks. Rivera said much of that decision is dependent upon what happens with the first overall pick by Cincinnati Bengals.
"Once that pick goes on, then we'll go from there," Rivera said. "[Smith and I] have talked a couple of times already about what situations could potentially be, but the truth is we have to see what happens in front of us."
Should Young get drafted before the Redskins are on the clock, it opens up the potential for other possibilities. There are other, more immediate needs on the team besides drafting a pass rusher, and Rivera told local reporters after his press conference that he is meeting with quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Joe Burrow -- both of whom are predicted to be taken at the top of the draft.
2. He already has a good relationship with Kyle Smith.
One of the first moves the team made after Rivera was hired was to promote Smith to his current position of Vice President of Player Personnel. The two had a small connection, as Rivera worked with his father, A.J. Smith, when he was with the San Diego Chargers as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator from 2007-10. Smith "shook his hand maybe once," but they didn't know each other well.
That has changed since Rivera was officially hired on New Year's Day, and Rivera said he and Smith have a strong relationship now.
"Kyle has his own way of doing things, he's got his own personality, and [the relationship] has been really good," Rivera said. "Kyle is a guy that is always looking to talk about things. He's been great, he really has."
Smith said the team's roster decisions are a collaborative effort between he and Rivera, and Rivera vouched for that in his press conference. They went through the team's roster evaluations to set the team's core on Feb. 10 and prepared for the combine last week. Rivera's initial impressions of Smith are that he does his due diligence and works hard.
That has resulted in a fluid connection between the two in terms of deciding the team's direction with the draft and free agency. Smith seems to agree with that assessment; he said he loves the way things are running and their working relationship has been "outstanding."
"I've been very pleased with it," Rivera said. "I think our relationship is very good, very strong."
3. He's excited about the youth on his team.
One of the things that attracted Rivera to the Redskins was the surplus of young talent that is littered throughout the roster. That doesn't just include last year's draft class, which ESPN recently ranked as the most productive during the 2019 season. The team's past three draft classes have Rivera excited about this team's potential.
"Very excited about that," Rivera said. "It's an opportunity to have a group of young players who can grow together. There's a group of young guys that have played a lot of football out of necessity."
As a result, the team had to speed up certain players' development to fill starting roles, which gave them valuable experience. In addition to Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin on offense, Rivera mentioned Cole Holcomb and Montez Sweat as players who excite him on defense.
"He played out in space a little bit and came back into the box and played linebacker," Rivera said of Holcomb. "Those are the kind of guys that you want, because you want that position flexibility."
Rivera compared Holcomb to Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson, who they used in a variety of roles when he was their head coach. He also said Sweat can be an impact player, but he wants to find the right fit for him in the Redskins' new 4-3 defense.
"He's got the skillset," Rivera said. "He's a young man that we've got to work with. We've told the guys...that what we want is our [defensive] line to play vertical. We want to play the run on our wat to the quarterback."
4. He likes Haskins, but "he's not anointed."
From the moment Rivera became the Redskins' head coach, he has had good things to say about Haskins. He saw calculated growth from the young quarterback last year, especially in the latter portion of the season. That proved to Rivera that Haskins can become a player who can give his team a chance to win.
He's also made it clear that he will not coddle Haskins. Despite all the talk of Haskins' potential, Rivera wants Haskins to earn the starting job.
"He's got to grow into it and nothing will be given," Rivera said. "He's not anointed, that's for sure."
Rivera pointed back to last season when Haskins led the Redskins to a comeback victory over the Detroit Lions as a sign of his maturation. Rivera said Haskins looked "very calm, he was very calculated" as he drove the offense down to game-tying and -winning field goals.
"He showed his poise, he showed his leadership, and he put them in position to win a football game," Rivera said. "That's what you want from your quarterback."
But after Rivera had left the podium, he told a group of local media of the team's plans to meet with Burrow and Tagovailoa. He said the meetings were "not due diligence," and he wants to keep all options open.
He's also mentioned veteran quarterbacks who could have the opportunity to play next season. There is a good chance that if Haskins wants to remain the team's starting quarterback, he will likely have to compete for the job with other players, whether they come from the draft or free agency.
"I expect him to come in and compete and work and we'll see what happens," Rivera said.
5. He wants the fans' support.
The Redskins have made the playoffs only twice in the past decade and haven't finished with a winning record since 2016. It has taken a toll on the fanbase, and Rivera knows it.
So, when asked about bringing conformity to the fanbase, Rivera said he hopes the fans come back out and cheer for them because "we can't do this by ourselves."
"We need them to rally around us, we need them to support us," Rivera said. "But at the same time, we've got to put a product out there that they're willing to come out and support. It's going to be exciting. It's going to be entertaining. It would be good to have the fans behind us."