Washington Redskins head coach Ron Rivera took part in a virtual leadership luncheon with fans on Thursday afternoon.
The event, presented by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Loudoun Economic Department and Visit Loudoun, featured Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael interviewing Rivera on the topic of leadership. The webinar also included a session in which Rivera took questions from attendees. Watch the entire event via Facebook Live HERE.
In addition, the Redskins and Paisano's Pizza teamed up to provide lunch for up to 200 attendees, which were distributed via a special coupon code.
During the hour-long session, Rivera spoke on a variety of topics ranging from free agency, the NFL Draft and virtual offseason workouts. Here's are five takeaways from the conversation:
1. The Redskins' virtual draft prep is coming to an end.
With a week to go before the NFL Draft kicks off April 23, Rivera said the team is in its final stages of the process.
They've gathered all of the necessary information at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and recently finished up their position coach readings, where each staff member added a coach's perspective to the scouts' evaluations. They've also conducted their medical reviews of prospects.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all NFL teams to work from home, but using videoconferencing technology, Rivera said the Redskins' draft preparation has continued to progress.
"We're interacting with the scouts, with the coaches, and Kyle and I have talked back and forth about where we are in the draft process," Rivera said. "And as we go through each day, we're going to continue to work to prepare the draft board the way we see it, and then we'll go from there."
2. Rivera said the Redskins will draft the best player available based on need.
The Redskins have already identified their specific draft needs, Rivera said. Now they're looking at who will be available at their picks and how exactly they'll factor into the team's plans moving forward.
In terms of draft strategy, Rivera cautioned against picking strictly based on need or on the best player available. Instead, he believes each selection should almost always be the best player available who also fits the system.
Rivera admitted there are times when the need outweighs the top prospect, and that's acceptable, too, as long as the two players are "very, very close."
"I've heard the expression, 'You don't want to shop hungry,' so keeping that in mind as we go through the board," Rivera said. "We have to be really, really honest with ourselves in terms of where we see players and what our needs are."
3. Rivera believes the Redskins "filled some pretty good voids" during free agency.
During a videoconference with the local media April 7, Rivera gave a player-by-player breakdown of the Redskins' free agency class. Each signee fulfilled a specific need, Rivera said, which was the Redskins' strategy entering the new league year.
He doubled down on that claim during Thursday's virtual leadership luncheon.
"We feel good about what we did in free agency, bringing in guys that fit the bill and filled a lot of needs for us so that when we go into this draft, we don't have to sit there and pick because we need to fill the voids. I like to believe we filled some pretty good voids with some of the guys that we picked up."
With a bevy of young talent already on the roster, Rivera said they were looking for players who not only are on the cusp of becoming starters but also understand the culture Rivera is trying to instill.
He believes the Redskins accomplished both objectives during free agency, and he's excited to build on that momentum during next week's draft.
4. The Redskins will begin their virtual offseason program on Monday.
The Redskins' offseason workout program, which was supposed to begin April 6, was initially suspended indefinitely as a part of the NFL's response to the novel coronavirus.
But earlier this week, the NFL and the NFLPA agreed on a virtual offseason program that includes up to three weeks of online activities in addition to a voluntary veteran minicamp for new coaches. The Redskins will begin their offseason program Monday and conclude no later than May 15, per league regulations.
"What it really is is Phase 1 of the offseason program," Rivera said, "but you're going to do it virtually."
Similar to Phase 1, the coaching staff is afforded up to four hours per day with the players, which are typically split between classroom instruction and strength and conditioning. Since the Redskins will not be doing physical workouts virtually, Rivera said players will meet with their respective coaches online for two hours per day. That will continue four days per week for the next three weeks starting April 20. The team will then conduct its voluntary veteran minicamp, which will also be done virtually.
5. Rivera believes leadership is earned, not given.
Rivera believes anyone can learn and grow and become a leader; but do they have the desire to do so?
"To sit there and say, 'leaders are born,' no," Rivera said. "It's more a matter of having the inner fortitude to step up and be that leader."
Rivera believes he was fortunate growing up in a military background and being the son of a career army officer. He saw great examples of leadership growing up, and he's adopted those qualities in his own life.
Among his mentors were his parents, first and foremost, as well as his his high school, college and NFL coaches, which includes Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Ditka.
He also mentioned the coaches who hired him to their staffs -- Andy Reid, Lovie Smith and Norv Turner, among others -- and the ones he's learned on as a head coach, such as former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson. He was the one who put Rivera into contact with the legendary John Madden, who has been an invaluable mentor over the past several years.
One of the mistakes Rivera said he made his first years in Carolina was that he did not have a former head coach on his staff who knew what it was like to lead one of 32 NFL franchises. He'll have that in Washington with defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, but he'll also implement everything he's experienced and observed about leadership along the way.
"Everybody that influences you, everybody that impacts you, everyone that mentors you, you're going to take something from them," Rivera said. "If they do a good job, if they are who they are, you will learn lessons that you'll have the rest of your life."