It looks like a big change is coming for the Washington Football Team and it’s time for fans to give Ron Rivera their trust in finding his own personnel people.
Rivera is in the process of interviewing prospects to be the team’s new general manager, and regardless who gets that job, it very likely means current VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith is out.
And despite Rivera taking the team to a division title in his first season, changing the culture in Ashburn while fighting cancer and setting up the team for what looks like a brighter future than there’s been in years, there are many Washington fans ready to freak out about the prospect of losing Smith.
That's the definition of Ashburn Syndrome.
Smith has a solid track record as a talent evaluator and his scouting acumen is highly regarded across the NFL. But don’t mistake Smith for Bobby Beathard either, at least not at this stage of his career.
It’s very important to note that Smith is not to blame for the sins of Bruce Allen’s tenure.
By and large, Allen was the culprit for many of Washington’s bad draft decisions dating back four or five years. But for everyone that talks about the recent draft success in the third-round, think about some Washington’s recent second-round draft picks: Derrius Guice, Ryan Anderson and Su’a Cravens. Think about Dwayne Haskins and Josh Doctson too.
Smith is not to blame for all of those misses. Not by a long shot.
Allen played a large role overall, former GM Scot McCloughan played a huge role in the Doctson pick, and team owner Dan Snyder had much too large of a role in the Haskins selection.
Still, add it all up, and it’s not the end of the world if Rivera wants to change directions.
Understandably, Washington fans think about losing a young, talented personnel guy like Smith in the same vein that watching young, talented coaches like Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan and Matt LaFleur flourish across the league hurts. It stings.
But it’s also time to turn the page.
Bruce Allen, enabled by Dan Snyder, made a ton of mistakes.
Bruce is gone now.
And, so far at least, it looks like Rivera make his own calls.
Like what? Here’s a list of moves Rivera got to make that Snyder would never have let the previous leadership make:
- Trading Trent Williams, but more importantly trading Trent Williams to Shanahan’s 49ers. That NEVER would have happened before Rivera’s arrival.
- If Snyder was still running the show there is no chance Adrian Peterson would have been cut before the 2020 season started. No chance. Ask Jay Gruden, who very clearly wanted to release Peterson before the 2019 season and was unable to do so. Remember that infamous Week 1 benching in Philly? That was Gruden making a statement.
- Whatever happened at QB in 2020, it would have looked a million miles different if the Snyder/Allen regime was still running things. Dwayne Haskins would NEVER have been released - in season - less than two years after being drafted 15th overall. NEVER. There aren’t big enough capital letters in the world to explain how much that Week 17 move established Rivera’s control over the Washington organization.
That’s three major moves in about 10 months. Major.
So - if Washington fans are willing to trust Rivera with the cultural and football rebuild ongoing within the Burgundy and Gold - it’s time to start trusting his decisions with the front office. That’s what a coach-centric approach means, the coach makes the calls.
That doesn’t mean Smith isn’t a talent. But it doesn’t mean whoever Rivera picks to take over as GM won't be either.
The NFL is a big world.
New players, new coaches, new scouts and new personnel executives emerge every year.
Rivera plans on finding a new GM, a new lead mind in the front office. Washington fans shouldn’t be scared of that.