Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera spoke with the media today to discuss his thoughts on the team's 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns and the plans for the season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Here are some notes & quotes from his press conference.
-- Let's start off with what the fan base wants to know: Rivera's decision on who will be the starting quarterback this week. No, Rivera did not say who was under center, and he will not give an answer on the subject until Wednesday, when the team meets again to begin practice. He did say that he intends to meet with his assistant coaches later today, and the decision will play a part in his decision.
-- One thing Rivera did say was that he and his team will be playing to win against the Cowboys this weekend. Washington has nothing to play for in terms of postseason aspirations, but it could play spoilers to the Cowboys, who are in position to claim the NFC East and potentially the No. 1 seed in the playoffs if the Eagles lose.
-- On the decision that was made to name Carson Wentz the starter in a must-win game for the Commanders, Rivera said that he felt comfortable with the move because of what he saw in the final quarter against the San Francisco 49ers. He thought the offense would get "a little bit of a spark" based on him completing 12 of his 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown. Washington struggled on that side of the ball on Sunday, though, as the unit finished the afternoon with just 260 total yards.
-- Washington dealt with two brutal injuries to Kamren Curl and Benjamin St-Juste, as ankle issues ultimately forced both players to miss the Browns game. Rivera said the Commanders tried to replace Curl by committee through the use of various linebackers and defensive backs, and the head coach believes the loss of Curl might have limited Jack Del Rio schematically. On not having St-Juste, Rivera said not having their top cornerback did put some stress on them, but he did feel that Danny Johnson played well in St-Juste's place.
-- Rivera was introduced as Washington's head coach three years ago today, and when asked about some positions he feels most confident in over the past three seasons, he pointed to the defense's core of young players and their skill positions on offense, particularly at wide receiver and running back. He likes the defensive line and how they have bought into the way Del Rio and the rest of the defensive staff use them. That nucleus of players makes Rivera believe that the team is heading in the right direction.
-- Injuries certainly played a role in why the Commanders got off to a slow start and could not maintain the momentum that they built in October and November, and Rivera pointed to the fact that the team did not have all the pieces in place to play the style they wanted to play at the start of the season. They did "tip their hand," as Rivera put it, in training camp by establishing themselves as a run-dominant team, which he thought would be to their benefit. That showed itself during the stretch run in the middle of the season, when the Commanders went 6-1.
-- Rivera has been in a "coach-centric" philosophy for almost three seasons now, and when asked his thoughts about that role, the head coach said that the toughest thing has been solidifying the starting quarterback spot. The Commanders have tried sticking with the players on the roster, signing a veteran and trading for a long-established starter. There have been some positives from each strategy, but none of the options have panned out the way the team anticipated. As of now, they are still evaluating the approach for this upcoming offseason.
"We'll get an opportunity to sit down, talk about it and evaluate it as a staff next week once it's all said and done."