ASHBURN — Sometime recently, Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera met with owner Dan Snyder to briefly discuss the coming offseason. But a full sit down — a conversation that will presumably cover the direction of the team as well as the possible sale of the franchise — is scheduled to take place Monday, when Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew will get together with Snyder and his wife, co-owner Tanya Snyder.
Rivera and Mayhew said Tuesday they are confident that the possible sale of the Commanders will not impact their ability to make moves in the offseason — an offseason that carries particular importance this year.
Rivera in particular faces a long list of issues he‘ll have to address in the coming weeks and months: He must find a replacement at offensive coordinator after firing Scott Turner, determine whether to make any additional changes to his coaching staff, evaluate whether to keep free agents such as Daron Payne and Taylor Heinicke and once again attempt to find a long-term answer at quarterback.
The Commanders are coming off back-to-back seasons of missing the playoffs — and in Rivera’s three years, the team has failed to produce a winning record.
“We’re really focused on what we need to do to get better for next season and [the sale of the team is] totally out of our hands,” Mayhew said.
“We’re gonna do what we’re supposed to do as far as getting ourselves ready to go forward,” Rivera added.
In the short term, Rivera‘s priority will be filling Turner’s job — a job that became open just hours after Tuesday’s press conference. Rivera said in a statement that he wanted a “fresh start” for an offense that ranked 28th in offensive DVOA (efficiency), failed to take advantage of various playmakers’ skill sets and struggled to put up points under Turner, the son of former Washington coach Norv Turner.
No matter who calls plays next season, though, Rivera and Mayhew indicated that Washington’s run-first identity is here to stay. They both said the style was a philosophical belief, shaped by their experiences in the league. The Commanders had the fourth-most rushing attempts in the NFL this past season — helped in part by rookie Brian Robinson’s return to the lineup in October.
“As you saw this last game, we were 2-to-1 run-pass,” Mayhew said, referencing the Commanders’ 41 rushing attempts to 19 pass attempts in Sunday’s win over Dallas. “For every time that we threw the ball, we ran the ball twice. That’s the way we want to play.”
Still, even with a ground-and-pound attack, quarterback play figures to be vital to Washington’s chances of success in 2023. Rivera and Mayhew spent part of Tuesday’s press conference defending last year’s high-profile trade for Carson Wentz — saying that they were comfortable with the process that led to acquiring him from the Indianapolis Colts.
But Wentz — who can be released at no cost this offseason — did not work out as desired. And Rivera has been unable to find a viable long-term solution in three years at the helm, starting eight different quarterbacks throughout his tenure.
Washington only improved by one win from a year ago and still missed the postseason — a letdown given that Rivera predicted his team would make a third-year leap before the season. But Rivera defended the team’s progress, citing the development of Washington’s younger players.
“It’s not always what’s on the win-loss record that indicates whether you’ve grown a little bit or not,” Rivera said, later adding, “Am I disappointed we didn’t get into playoffs? Darn right I am.”
As for the route Washington will take to address the position, Mayhew said the team was evaluating all options. He didn’t dismiss the possibility of trying to trade for another veteran, but added the Commanders would scope out the “entire landscape.” The executive also touted the possibility of Sam Howell, a fifth-round rookie who shined during Sunday’s win, filling that void.
“The only thing I can do is what I intend to do,” Rivera said. “And I’m intending to coach this football team, do the best we can and see what happens.”