A new era of Washington Redskins football began Thursday with the introductory press conference of new head coach Ron Rivera.
The longtime NFL defensive mind voiced his immense belief in the organization and preached a "player-centered culture" by way of a "coach-centered approach." He spoke intensely and confidently, determined to return the Redskins to relevancy.
He also sprinkled in jokes, personal mantras and tactical philosophies throughout the nearly 25-minute press conference -- all of which gave even more insight about him as a coach and a person.
Here are 10 quotes that stood out:
"It was about 30 days ago that this team got me unemployed, so just so you know, we're good now."
This was Rivera's first sentence of the press conference, and it spoke to just how ironic this entire situation has been.
When the Redskins traveled to Carolina in Week 13, they were the ones with the poor record and the interim head coach. But then they upset the Panthers, handing them their fourth straight defeat, and about 48 hours later Rivera was fired in the midst of his ninth season with the team.
At the end of that week, was when Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder first contacted Rivera's agent, and on the following Monday, Snyder called Rivera for the first time. The two spoke for about 40 minutes, then talked again the next day for about 20 minutes. It was the beginning of the process that eventually led to Rivera's hiring on New Year's Day.
Take a look at photos of Redskins' Head Coach, Ron Rivera, throughout his career.
"I got tired of getting up and having to do dishes."
Rivera was only unemployed for about a month, and even that was too long for someone who's been coaching in the NFL since 1997. Of the four weeks in between jobs, Rivera said he really only took five days off. He also "snuck off to the golf course" a few times, but that's it.
Rivera spent most of his time delving into the Redskins' game tape and meeting extensively with Snyder, looking at every aspect of the organization.
Eventually he realized he wanted to be a part of the franchise's turnaround, and he could not wait to get started.
"Well I can tell you right now, it's not about the money. If I wanted the money, I'd still be out there trying to pit a couple teams against each other."
Despite being fired midseason, Rivera was one of, if not the most-coveted head coaching candidate for teams looking to start anew. But instead of prolonging the hiring process to consider impending coaching vacancies, Rivera agreed to join the Redskins just days after the regular season ended.
Snyder came to him with the idea of a coach-centered approach to running the Redskins' organization, and Rivera was immediately interested. Add in the team's raw talent and veteran leadership, and Rivera did not feel the need to weigh his options. He saw the potential for a consistent winner in Washington, and he jumped at the opportunity to try and make that happen.
"My responsibility is to get the most out of the players. To work with them, teach them, mentor them. If I have to do it one by one, I most certainly will do it. I've done it in the past and I'll do it again. I'll do what I can to help these young men become not just the players we want, but the men in the community we need."
This goes back to Rivera's idea of a player-centered culture, which Rivera told Snyder was a must when considering this job with the Redskins.
In Carolina, he wasn't just a coach; he was a mentor and a friend. He moved his office closer to the locker room to get a better sense of team camaraderie. He cared just as much about players' families and their well-beings as he did their on-field performance.
Using this approach, Rivera took over the 2-14 Panthers following the 2010 season and turned them into back-to-back-to-back division title winners from 2013-2015. He'll aim to conduct a similar turnaround with the 3-13 Redskins.
"We need 11 guys doing one thing at a time, not one guy trying to do all 11."
Rivera said his players will grow tired of this saying, but he believes it bears repeating. The mantra revolves around discipline, which Rivera said will be at the center of everything this franchise does. Every player will have a specific job outlined by the coaching staff, and his ability to execute that responsibility as instructed will be imperative, Rivera explained.
If the players fail doing what Rivera taught them, then he will take the blame. But if the players fail trying to do too much, that falls on them.
As long as the players do what the coaching staff asks, Rivera ensures success will be theirs. And considering he's won seemingly everywhere he's been, it seems like advice worth listening to.
"Don't draw me a map unless you've been there."
One of the things Rivera tells young coaches is to have someone on the coaching staff who has experience doing what they're doing now.
He did not have that "voice of reason" his first two seasons in Carolina, which contributed to his early struggles as a head coach. But before Year 3, former Panthers owner Jerry Richardson got Rivera in touch with Hall of Fame coach John Madden, who Rivera said has served as a tremendous mentor ever since.
Rivera is by no means an inexperienced coach anymore, but he still lives by the aforementioned saying.
It's largely why he hired Jack Del Dio to be the Redskins' defensive coordinator. Like Rivera, Del Rio is a respected defensive mind with successful head coaching experience. So, if Del Rio sees something wrong or suggests changes, Rivera seriously considers his input because he's been there before.
"We're going to play the run on our way to the quarterback."
Rivera inherits a defense that underperformed this past season, finishing near the bottom of the NFL in several statistical categories. But with the correct scheme -- the Redskins will switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 -- and the right coaching -- Rivera and Del Rio are both defensive gurus -- Rivera believes this group can live up to its unrealized potential.
Rivera said this defense will prioritize stopping the run, and the Redskins certainty have the pieces to do so. The defensive front has four former first-round picks to go along with Matt Ioannidis, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2019. However, under former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, the unit ranked 31st in the league against the run by giving up an average of 146.2 yards per game.
If Rivera and Del Rio can improve the rushing defense, the unit should be much better considering its pass-rushing prowess. (The Redskins totaled 23 sacks over the final six games of 2019, matching their total from the first 10 games combined.)
"I think he can become a franchise-style quarterback."
Rivera is referring to first-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins, who started seven games during an up-and-down rookie campaign. Haskins began the season as the backup, struggling in relief appearances against the New York Giants and the Minnesota Vikings. He then earned the starting job ahead of the team's Week 9 contest against Buffalo, though he still made too many mistakes.
But in his final two starts versus New York and Philadelphia in December, something clicked for Haskins. He completed roughly 72% of his passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns. He did not throw an interception and was sacked just three times. He consistently showed the ability to lead an NFL offense and run it well, as the Redskins were as efficient as they had been all season during that stretch.
Rivera recognizes Haskins' potential, but he also understands the process of molding a high draft pick into a franchise quarterback. He went through the same experience with Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, helping turn the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 into the NFL MVP four years later.
"Several years ago, we drafted as the No. 1 pick and we had a plan," Rivera said of Newton. "What we're trying to do right now is to develop that plan for [Haskins'] development as we go forward."
"Win the Super Bowl, and I mean it, too. The only reason you become a head coach in this league, in my opinion, is to win. That's it, that's the bottom line. If you do it for any other reason, you're wrong."
Carolina made the playoffs four times, won three NFC South titles and appeared in Super Bowl 50 during Rivera's eight-plus seasons there, but the Panthers never hoisted the Lombardi Trophy.
In fact, Rivera has never won a Super Bowl during his NFL coaching career, which began with the Chicago Bears as a defensive quality control coach in 1997.
Having won Super Bowl XX as a player, Rivera has experienced the euphoria of standing on the podium of champions. He's chased that feeling ever since, and he would like nothing more than to share that moment with the Redskins, who have not won a Super Bowl in more than three decades.
"I believe in me, and I'll bet on me."
Rivera knows the tall task ahead of him. The Redskins are coming off a 3-13 campaign, have won two NFC East titles since the turn of the century and are without a playoff victory since 2005.
So, when a reporter asked what gives Rivera confidence that he'll be able to see his vision for this franchise through, he did not have a definitive answer. "Well, nobody really knows," were his exact words. "But I'll tell you this," Rivera went on, and that's when he dropped the aforementioned assurance.
It does not take much digging for evidence to support his claim. He went to three consecutive NFC Championships with the Eagles from 2001-03. He helped the Bears and Panthers advance to the Super Bowl in 2007 and 2016, respectively. In his 23 seasons coaching in the NFL, he's been to the postseason 13 times.
Rivera is a winner, regardless of where he's been and who he's coached. Now he's the head coach of the Washington Redskins, where he intends to replicate the formula that's yielded past triumphs.
"I will give you one thing, and that is I'm going to work," Rivera said near the end of his press conference. "I'm going to work very hard, I'm going to do the things that I believe and I'm going to stay true to who I am."