Feb. 19, 2020
Who is Ron Rivera? What affects will his coaching have on the Washington Redskins in the 2020 NFL season and beyond? How will the offense change under his leadership? Putting the spotlight on Ron Rivera’s path through playing and coaching in the NFL will provide insight into the future of the Washington Redskins organization.
Ron Rivera played his whole career with the Chicago Bears from 1984 - 1992 and won the Super Bowl in 1985. The 1985 Bears were all about toughness. They had a strong defense and ran the ball well with Walter Payton. Ron brought this style of football through his entire coaching career and will likely bring it to Washington.
Rivera’s first role as a Defensive Coordinator was with the Bears from 2004-2006 where the defense surrendered very low points per game, had numerous takeaways and appeared in Super Bowl XLI in 2006.The Bears had drafted Rex Grossman in the first round of the NFL draft in 2003 and his only full season was in 2006 where he threw for 3193 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Aside from ‘06, there were multiple starting QB’s each year.
Thomas Jones and the running game were constant during Rivera’s time in Chicago. From 2004-2006 Jones posted (rushing yards/rush TD) 948/7, 1335/9 and 1210/6 on the ground and (Receptions/receiving yards/TD receptions) 56/427/0, 26/143/0 and 36/154/0 through the air. Jones was also very durable playing in more than 14 games each season.
Rivera moved to San Diego to join the Chargers in 2007 and became the Defensive Coordinator in 2008 where he stayed until 2010. In 2010 the defense led the league in passing yards allowed at 177.8 yards/game. During this time, San Diego enjoyed a solid rushing attack led my LaDainian Tomlinson who eventually signed with the New York’s Jets for the 2010 season. San Diego used the 12th pick of the 2010 NFL draft to acquire Ryan Matthews who went 678/7 and 22/145 (146 PPR points).
2011 was Rivera’s first year as a Head Coach and took over the Carolina Panthers team that was 2-14-0 in 2010. They drafted Cam Newton with the 1st overall pick in the NFL draft. Cam was QB3, QB4 and QB4 in his first three seasons from 2011-2013 scoring 369.6, 323.5 and 297.7 fantasy points in a 4pt. passing touchdown league. For reference, during that time frame, the QB1’s were Aaron Rodgers in 2011 (397.2), Drew Brees in 2012 (345.6) and Peyton Manning in 2013 (410). In 2019 the top QB’s listed from 1-5 were Lamar Jackson (415.7), Dak Prescott (337.8), Russell Wilson (328.6), DeShaun Watson (320) and Jameis Winston (305.4).
During that time, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart toted the rock until Christian McCaffrey was draft 8th overall in the 2017 NFL draft. In 2017, McCaffrey split time with Jonathan Stewart and rushed for 435/2 and caught 80 passes for 651 yards and 5 touchdowns. McCaffrey took over full time duties in 2018 when he had went 1098/7 on the ground and 107/867/6 in the air. 2019 was a record fantasy year for Christian McCaffrey. He had 1000 yards receiving and rushing, posting (116/1005/4) in the air and (1387/15) on the ground. For comparison, LaDainian Tomlinson’s best year was in 2006, rushing for 1815 yards and 28 touchdowns to pair with 56 receptions for 508 yards and 3 touchdowns. Tomlinson scored 481.1 PPR fantasy points in 2006 at age 27. McCaffrey had 471.2 PPR points at age 23 in 2019.
Ron Rivera is a defensive minded coach who has done a great job developing rookies. Cam Newton and Luke Kuechly won Rookie of the Year in back to back years and Christian McCaffrey has been nothing short of exceptional. The Panthers offensive players during Rivera’s time as Head Coach were able to put up great numbers because they were durable and had multiple seasons with no games due to injury. This is notable because the head athletic trainer from the Panthers, Ryan Vermillion, recently signed with the Washington Redskins after working for 18 years in Carolina. John Matsko, Panthers offensive line coach (2011-2019) also made the move from Carolina to Washington.
Rivera has brought defense and a strong rushing attack to his teams since he began his coaching career. Expect more of the same in Washington. The blocking schemes will come the offensive line coaching of Matsko to continue the pattern of rushing dominance. The Redskins are a good candidate to draft a running back in the 2020 NFL draft and based on the caliber of rushing skill players that have followed Rivera team’s, bank on his instincts over scouts from the combine when they draft offensive players in 2020. Newton was extremely successful as a rookie and McCaffrey had 80 receptions in his rookie year. Both of them were great picks in dynasty rookie drafts.
Current players, Dwayne Haskins and Terry McLaurin, will be heading into their second year in 2020. McLaurin flashed right away in 2019 with Case Keenum and then saw some rough patches once Haskins became the full time starter. Expect McLaurin to be a consistent wide receiver in 2020 with a low floor and a decent ceiling. Steven Sims Jr., another rookie WR, started becoming relevant near the end of 2019 and most importantly was the waiver wire pick up that scored two touchdowns in the week 16 championships. He is a deep sleeper with most value in dynasty league. McLaurin, Sims Jr. And Haskins were all rookies and have the chance to grow together in this offense.
The Redskins further deepened their ties to Rivera's previous coaching staff when Scott Turner was hired as the new offensive coordinator. Turner previously coached in Carolina with Rivera in 2011-2012 and 2018-2019. Turner was the interim offensive coordinator in Carolina following week 13. He was the positional coach for quarterbacks' Cam Newton, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater when they posted their most accurate passing seasons. In Cleveland he served as the wide receivers coach during Josh Gordon's breakout in 2013. The Redskins exercised the 2020 option on Adrian Peterson's contract and an aggressive rushing attack will pull pressure off Haskins and allow him to get up to speed with the new offensive scheme.
Ron Rivera is a defensive minded coach who has done a great job developing rookies. Based on his track record, it is expected they will focus on stopping the run on defense and running the ball on offense. With Adrian Peterson there, he may tote the rock as the feature back in 2020, but don’t be surprised if they draft a running back this year. His defenses have been led by a solid linebacker like Brian Urlacher so expect them target a linebacker that can be groom for this style of defense.