Football Team

Think Rivera will apologize for long-term thinking? You're dead wrong

Football Team

Not only do NFL head coaches get scrutinized for hundreds of decisions they make every year, but they often face the same scrutiny on any given decision multiple times.

Take Ron Rivera's choice to kick a 24-yard field goal in the third quarter against the Cardinals in Week 2 as opposed to going for it on fourth down. On the scoreboard, Washington was down three possessions before and following that kick, but Rivera relayed postgame that he believed getting three points mattered because it eliminated the possibility of his growing offense getting shut out.

That initial justification happened on Sunday. Thanks to the perks of his profession, though, Rivera was again asked to review the call on Monday in his day-after presser, and the topic came up once more in a one-on-one with NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay later that afternoon.

While Rivera never wavered in his defense of the move in his earlier responses, he showed by far the most passion when discussing it with Finlay. 

"See, it's easy in the moment to say, 'This is what you should do,'" Rivera said. "I've lived this. I've thought this. What I'm doing, I'm not doing from the hip, OK? I'm not shooting from the hip. I have to go through these things, I've had to have lived through these things, I have to understand where this football team is."

He was just getting started.

"I'm being serious," Rivera continued. "Think about, again, if we don't kick the field goal and we lose 27-0. Now, what's my team's psyche? What's their mentality? Is it, 'Ah, (expletive), here we go again?' OK, you know what I'm saying? Or, 'OK, dang, hey, we've got something to build off of, we scored three times against these guys.'"

 

The dilemma is the perfect intersection of the two mindsets Rivera is having to juggle.

To truly put his club in a better position to defeat the Cardinals, yes, using fourth down for one more shot into the end zone was the more logical option. That would've been the more prudent route to take for most men on the sidelines.

However, Rivera isn't solely concerned with cutting into a second-half lead or getting closer to securing a single victory. As he's stated time and time again since arriving in Washington in January, long-term success is his main priority. His only one, really. 

That's why he wanted the sure three points instead of the not-as-sure six points; while they didn't do much for the Burgundy and Gold in Arizona, he's steadfast that they could assist in his grand rebuild. 

"We've got something to teach off of, we've got something to learn off of," Rivera said. "I would much rather teach off of a 30-15 loss than a 27-0 loss."

Rivera not using his timeouts as the fourth quarter clock was winding down was also criticized. He doesn't care. To him, there's not a shred of doubt that he was right in that spot.

"I have to look at things and slow down and understand that we're bringing along a group of young football players,"  Rivera told Finlay. "If calling three timeouts and putting that quarterback back out there and all of the sudden he gets the crap kicked out of him for three straight plays or four straight plays is going to make him better, then great, that's what I'll do. But I don't believe that's what this young man needs right now."

Maybe his reasoning will convince the fans and analysts who derided him at first that he was correct after all. Maybe it won't. Either way, the reasoning lines up with Rivera's football philosophy and what he values, and as long as he doesn't lose sight of those, he likes his chances.

"I'm looking at things globally, I'm not looking at things for the moment," Rivera said. "I'm going to make sure this is built the right way."