Ron Rivera's making a sales pitch that the NFL isn't buying

Ron Rivera

In the wake of Tuesday's mega-deal that sent Russell Wilson to the Broncos in exchange for a tidy pile of draft picks and players, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Wilson "wanted to go to Denver" and that the team was the quarterback's "preferred location."

Per Rapoport, Wilson was intrigued by the Broncos "in part because of the roster, the young receivers [and] a pretty baller defense." Now, Wilson gets the opportunity to see all of those appealing pieces up close and — hey, hold on for just a damn second.

Wasn't Wilson supposed to be drawn to the Commanders and their appealing pieces?

If you've listened to Ron Rivera at all this offseason, you've certainly gotten that idea, as Washington's coach has talked up his squad more than Arby's talks up the fact that they have the meats.

"I think our personnel is more than good enough," Rivera answered on Jan. 11 when asked about if acquiring a top-tier signal-caller would significantly raise the franchise's ceiling. "I believe in what we can be."

"I like our team," Rivera said less than a month later, speaking after the Commanders' rebrand became official. "I like where we are. We've got [Pro Football Focus'] No. 6 ranked offensive line, so we have a chance to protect the guy. We've got a 1,000-yard rusher, we've got a 1,000-yard receiver. I can go down the list."


And at last week's NFL Combine, Rivera simply kept going, explaining that he loves the depth at wideout (note: the offense's second- and third-leading pass-catchers in 2021 were running backs) and equally appreciates his offensive line (which is almost guaranteed to lose Brandon Scherff in free agency).

His remarks since the end of the 2021 campaign have clearly — clearly — indicated supreme confidence in Washington's assets outside of quarterback.

"If we had an opportunity to get a veteran guy, we'd feel really good about that veteran stepping in," he said in Indianapolis.

There's one major flaw with Rivera's sales pitch, though: No one's buying it, and the Wilson move is the most obvious indicator of that so far.

Since the swap was first revealed, reports have emerged that the Commanders offered a solid package for Wilson's services, but the Seahawks "preferred to trade him out of the NFC." 

Whether that's fully true or not isn't as relevant as the fact that Wilson possessed the power to choose his future destination, and the Super Bowl winner elected to resume his career in Denver and a loaded AFC West.

If Wilson felt compelled to join Washington, he could've tried to force his way there. It's reasonable to surmise that Seattle would've had to acquiesce to his demands, too, even if it meant taking lesser compensation and shipping him to a conference foe (once the possibility of getting rid of Wilson was broached, turning back would've been arduous).

Instead, Wilson either didn't pay attention to or merely didn't care about Rivera's passionate marketing. He might've also thought about the things Rivera didn't touch on — like, for example, the never-ever-ending controversy that always consumes the organization and pairs perfectly with the constant losing — before dismissing the Commanders as a fit. 

It really comes down to this: Washington and Denver submitted offers for the future Hall of Famer and only one was accepted. It wasn't the former's.

This is becoming the norm for the team, by the way; the club straight-up lost out on Amari Cooper in free agency shortly after Rivera took charge and was listed as an also-ran in the Matt Stafford sweepstakes (Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile, was so far off the table that he was in another room). Those were all different scenarios, sure, but they all featured the same, unsatisfying conclusion.

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Then there's Deshaun Watson, who also owns a no-trade clause. If his off-field matters are resolved, could he become the next in-demand player to reject the Commanders?

To be fair to Rivera, he's assuming a glass-half-full approach with a glass that's been close to empty for a couple of decades. He can only advertise what's on his side and he's grinding away at that.

However, the Wilson jaw-dropper is still nothing short of a crushing blow for the leader who so badly craves outside respect for what he's building.

"What we hope is that we've said enough," the coach told the media at the Combine. "I've talked to people in interviews as far as the media's concerned, it's been put out there, that we feel that we have a lot to offer. We'd most certainly be willing to discuss and talk and just listen to what people have to say and would love to be able to get into those conversations."

Rivera's no doubt said enough, but the NFL has apparently seen enough as well. There are 32 workplaces in the NFL, and Washington continues to stand out as one of the least enticing among that group.