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"He Was Tremendous": Joe Gibbs Played A Role In Getting Ron Rivera To The Redskins


Somewhere in Redskins owner Dan Snyder’s house, there is a room that new head coach Ron Rivera affectionately referred to as "the freezer."

There was no other way to describe it: the room was cold. In his introductory press conference, Rivera said it was "just frigid." It was in that confined ice box that Rivera and Snyder spent "probably 35 hours" talking through every aspect of the Redskins organization and its future.

"I think he did it on purpose to make sure I stayed awake," Rivera said in jest on Jan. 2. "We seriously did. We went through every aspect of the organization. That's what I was really impressed with. He was willing to sit there and go through it piece-by-piece and we truly did."

That story was one of the final steps in Rivera becoming the Redskins' head coach. But Rivera also did his own homework before taking on the new task, and much of that involved talking with former head coach and Redskins legend Joe Gibbs. The conversations were enough to give Rivera all the excitement he needed to take on "the freezer" and begin a new era for the franchise.

"I was so fired up about it that I couldn't wait for the next opportunity to sit down with Mr. Snyder," Rivera told Voice of the Redskins Larry Michael on "Redskins Nation."

Gibbs coached the Redskins for a combined 17 seasons separated into two stints. The first was from 1981-92, and in that time Gibbs turned the Redskins into one of the premier teams in the NFL. He won all three of the team's Super Bowls and was a two-time Associated Press Coach of the Year.

His second stint, from 2004-07, wasn't as successful as his first, but the Redskins did make two playoff appearances under his leadership. The team has had little postseason success since Gibbs retired at the end of the 2007 season; it has as many playoff appearances in 12 seasons as Gibbs had in four.

Snyder said in a press release after the season that he wanted to bring championship football back to Washington, D.C. He felt Rivera was the man he needed to accomplish that goal. He first talked with Rivera's agent, Frank Bauer, and then with Rivera himself. Rivera liked Snyder's message, but he also wanted to hear a different perspective on the matter.

So, Rivera took it upon himself to reach out to Gibbs, who he had come to know over the years, to hear what he had to say about him potentially being the Redskins' next head coach.

"He was tremendous," Rivera said. "He gave me at least 25, 30 minutes on the phone, and we talked and talked."

Whatever Gibbs said must have worked, because then Rivera was sitting face-to-face with Snyder, who talked about his belief that today’s successful teams have a “coach-centered” approach. That struck a chord with Rivera, who talked about his own philosophy and how he approached leading a professional team.

Rivera went back to Charlotte, North Carolina, to think on the conversation. He also reached out to Gibbs again, but this time it came with an invitation to Gibbs' house.

"We spent a good afternoon going over a lot of stuff," Rivera said. "Coach gave me so much insight, it was amazing."

Then Gibbs took out a pen and started drawing up plays to show Rivera how he did things when he was on the Redskins' sideline. It was a defining moment in their conversation, which Rivera said was "really cool."

"I kept thinking to myself, 'How can I get that?' I just want to have him sign it so I can put it in my office,'" Rivera said.

The next time Rivera and Snyder met, they were in "the freezer" going over a crash course in the franchise's history. It also didn't take Snyder long to make things official. The rumors about the hire started the day after the Redskins finished the season against the Dallas Cowboys, and then it was made official two days later on New Year’s Day.

Nowadays, Rivera is already hard at work laying the groundwork for how his and Snyder's vision will take form. His coaching staff is coming together, and he has already met a handful of players who attended his introductory press conference.

Rivera and Snyder plan on him being the Redskins' head coach for at least the next five seasons. They both think the team can get back to its "glory days," or in other words, when Gibbs was leading the burgundy and gold to playoff appearances and Super Bowls.

And they both think it can happen quickly.

"I told him I didn't want to go through a five-year rebuilding process because quite honestly, I don't have the patience and from what I read, neither does he," Rivera said. "You know as they say, 'Hail to the Redskins.' Let's roll, man. Let's go."