Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera addressed the media on Nov. 29. Here is a full transcript of the press conference.
On his first day as defensive play caller at practice:
"I think things went well. I think you guys had an opportunity to visit with them and kind of get their opinion on it, but I think things went well, for the most part. We did a little bit of work on Saturday as a coaching staff, came back in on Monday and we finished up our first [and] second down game planning, started prepping for red zone and third down. Came in yesterday and we did a little bit more. We had a chance to visit with the players, went through some things. I talked directly to them about what happened. What went into my decision making and just basically the biggest thing I told them was it was on us. Now, we're going to do the things that we feel really good about. We want to make sure the things that we're doing give you guys best opportunity to be successful. And just wanted to hear from them as well. I had an opportunity to talk with several of them about it. They were all very good about that today, this morning. And then I thought going out in the morning meeting and then going out on the practice field, I think things went well."
On how different the prep work has been:
"It's obviously the time I used to spend looking at some of the offensive stuff. I really haven't had time, to be quite honest, to do any of that. So just being focused with the defensive guys, it's been great too because we've kind of given different responsibilities to the defensive coaches. I think they've handled those things very well. When I come in and the things that they're presenting, the preparation for each of those meetings has been really good by those guys. And just kind of like the flow of it, the rhythm has been really good. So that's been good. I thought, again, I thought the players handled today very well."
On the mechanics in the headset on gameday and on what they run through during the week:
"We'll get used to it. But one of the things that we're going to do more so than anything else is we'll just continue to try and keep things as normal as possible on the sidelines and just make sure the communications are there. One of the things that we will do is we'll communicate and we'll talk and we will always give ourselves the opportunity to get together and discuss as we get into each series. A little something that I used to do when I was with the [San Diego] Chargers and then with Chicago [Bears]. That's that little something that you do is kind of communicate what's the anticipation, this is what we've shown, what are we expecting, those types of things."
On if there will be even more voices in the headset on Sunday for him:
"It's no different because when I was listening in on the offensive side and hearing those things and then listening to the people upstairs about challenges and all that kind of stuff as well. It won't be that much different. It really won't. I think the biggest thing more than anything else is just the communications that I'll have. I'll have a few more things to say between plays."
On the challenge of keeping players and coaches engaged:
"I don't think it's much of a challenge. It's all about, to me, it's about playing them one at a time and playing them with a little bit of pride. We're still playing for something, so we might as well go out and play them one at a time and play them the best we can. And that's what we plan to do. We'll show up, we'll play hard and we'll give great effort."
On if it is tough to decide how whether to put the emphasis on stopping the run or pass against the Miami Dolphins:
"You target what they do and then you go from there. The way we're going to look at it obviously is this is a very diverse offense, very well coached. They play fast. They've got good skilled players and we've got to be able to handle certain things that they do and play it to the best of our ability."
On Miami Dolphins Head Coach Mike McDaniel's letter to him applying for a GA position:
"Well, I remember replying, and then he reminded me of it last year when I was at one of the committee meetings and we had a great conversation. He's a very bright, very sharp young man. He really is. When people do things like that, they take the initiative, it goes back to that old saying that I was told back in the day when I wanted to get into coaching, and that is, 'They're not going to send a limo, so go get the job." And that was my mentality, and I was very impressed with that. And that's why I responded. He took the time and the least I could do is take the time to respond to him. And it's kind of proven it because he's turned into a heck of a football coach. He really has. He's done a great job."
On what he has heard from the players on how to improve the defense:
"In talking with them, it was I think more about just getting the opportunity to play fast. We did some really good things. We did some complicated things. I think taking some of those things off of their plate would make it easier for them to play fast. I think that's what they've done. I thought today was a good practice. I thought the guys were dialed in on it. One thing we did pare things down a lot. I think the natural response to it is when there is changes, let's focus in on these little things, and let's get back to the basics."
On the balance between listening to players and making decisions that are best for the team:
"First of all, the most important thing is that you listen to them, and you hear exactly what they say, and then you respond to it and really tell them, 'Hey, these are things that we can do and this is why we're going to do them.' I think giving them the opportunity to have the voice was something they wanted. So, I listened and talked with several of them."
On the hiring of Interim Assistant Defensive Backs Coach Jim Salgado:
"Jimmy's a guy that did internships with us before in the past. He's a coach I've known for quite some time, and a couple times I've tried to hire him. He ended up in Buffalo [with the Bills]. He was with [Buffalo Bills Head Coach] Sean [McDermott] and [Former Buffalo Bills Coach] Leslie [Frazier] and that system, which is similar to some of the things that we do. And so, when he was at Michigan State most recently, and when the season was over, the word was they were going to change their head coach, so I reached out to him after the season was over to find out what his status was. He was available, so we got him, brought him in. He's going to come in, he's going to work with the defensive backs, and he's just going to finish the year out for us, and then we'll go from there."
On if he will work specifically in the Nickel spot on defense:
"Yes, I think it's a very important position for us, especially the way we use the nickel, the Buffalo, the guy that we play, that we put in that position. And so that was the idea behind a guy like Jimmy, just knowing who he is and he is a guy that most of the guys on the staff know who he is. And so that made it an easy decision and an easy transition."
On if he is excited to have more one-on-one time with the players on defense:
"I think getting an opportunity to interact in a different way is exciting. It's been exciting just because it's different, it's a little bit new. And just having the chance to spend more time, and not have to worry about something else. This will be an interesting challenge. I like the challenge. I think it's going to be fun. I like the way, again, like I said, I like the way the guys responded today."
On how to balance spreading the ball around on offense but also getting the ball to playmakers:
"Well, that I think has a lot to do with understanding the decision-making part of it. And that's what I think is happening with [QB] Sam [Howell] in terms of learning and understanding that more so than anything else. This is really his first year, our first year as a team, in the system. I'd like to believe that we've seen what the potential of it could be as we continue to grow in it. And as Sam continues to learn it, and the rest of the guys do too as well, the balance of spreading it to who needs to have it. I think that will come even more so as things continue to develop. I think [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Eric Bieniemy] EB's done a great job installing this offense and trying to find the ways that it works best for us. It's not perfect yet. I don't think it'll ever be perfect. I don't think there's a perfect offense out there. I just think that as you develop and mature in it, I think it can really come together, at least it looks like it has at times. But we got to put it all together as a team."
On if Bieniemy will have any additional roles on Sunday:
"I don't think so. I don't think so. I mean, one of the things I've talked with the defensive coaches is that as soon as we transition off the field, we need to get together and talk about what needs to be adjusted. Then, what the ideas and thoughts can be for the next series as well. Once we get a chance to communicate all those things, then I can step back into that part of it. I will rely on the guys upstairs that have helped me with some of the other things and try and gather as much information from there."
On if an emphasis on the run game is due to Bieniemy's growth as a play caller or on the way opponents have schemed against them:
"I believe it is part of Eric's evolution. I really do. I think part of it is just learning and understanding. I mean, again, people have asked me, 'Well, why'd you keep [Howell] out there in the Dallas game?' Well, he's got to learn this stuff. He's got to grow and part of it is he will take some lumps and he will make some mistakes. But being able to finish and I'll tell you this, after the game in the locker room, Sam and I had a great opportunity to visit and to spend a little time, and he gets it, he understands it. I mean, it was great. I made a couple comments, asked a couple questions, and his answers were terrific. He's a guy that's growing and developing and really maturing right in front of us as a football player, as a quarterback in this league. So, it's part of the evolution, the growth process and I know that the thing that you would like is, 'Hey, when you put a new offense in and you've got really young guys, you get a chance to really watch more than you do as far as playing.' But this is a young guy that's playing and watching and learning and growing, and that'll be all part of his growth and evolution as well."
On why C Tyler Larsen did not practice:
"Yeah, more of a rest day than anything else. He's been rehabbing it, he's been doing all the things that he needs to keep it strong and loose. Last week, if you remember, he had the vet day on Wednesday as well."
On what Howell said to him in the locker room in Dallas:
"Just how he took responsibility. To me, it was really, I mean, it's one of those things where he knows that he can be better and that we can be better. I thought that was a really, really mature thing to talk about."
On if he sees an increase in speed in practice after paring down the defense:
"I think it's something you see in practice. Again, it's just one of those things that you look at and you say, 'Let's pare things back. Let's get down to the base fundamentals.' I mean, the hard part for us, more so than anything else this year was [S Darrick Forrest] DFo getting hurt in the fifth game of the year. He is a guy that really when you have a guy back there playing that position, he has to be a guy that's got some experience and stuff. That's tough on everybody. When you lose [LB] Cody [Barton] for four weeks and then get him back just last week, I mean, those are guys that are part of the communication process that you've developed and built since OTAs. Again, it's just good to have those guys out there now and have them working and learning and growing."
On Forrest's injury:
"He's still in the rehab program, doing his stuff. Again, he still has to go through certain points that he's going to get to and the doctors will evaluate from there."
On if there is anything he can draw from taking over play calling with four games left in 2018:
"It's a little bit of apples and oranges, but part of it too is you get into a certain rhythm with the game, you get into a certain rhythm with the preparation. I think that's one of the things that we did when I first got going. I met with the defensive guys separately, individually, and then I met with them as a group, and we talked about a lot of things. Then I talked about the things that I was looking for and what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do them. I was going to give them the weekend off, but then I told them, I said, 'Look, I need you guys to come in on Saturday, so let's get together.' They came in on Saturday and they were all prepared. They had presentations ready to go, things all based off what we had talked about. Made that going through and looking at things and deciding and talking about a really good process. That's kind of what I mean about having a rhythm to preparation. As we started transitioning on Monday in preparation for Miami, we were able to really just go into this and everybody knew their role and started to present. It's been a really good rhythm."
On if he likes play calling:
"When it works, yeah. [laughs] I do because you really are engaged, you really are. I mean, it takes a lot, you could see it. When play callers get into a really good rhythm, it happens very quickly. You have a very good feel for it and something that I enjoyed when I was a coordinator, the thing I really liked was the practices. I really did. I thought practice was really cool."