For many, Washington's win over the Steelers on Monday was a notice that things were now different for the franchise. Despite past struggles, the team now featured the pieces and culture to make noise in the NFL.
Though others may just now see that potential, it's something those inside of the facility in Ashburn have known for months.
“I knew it in camp," pass rusher Montez Sweat said. "When you look at the guys that we got on both sides of the ball and special teams, it’s just football. You know what you got on your team.”
Sweat's evaluation of what Washington could do came from what he saw of his teammates early on in the season. With additions of young talent through the draft, useful free agents and some key pieces already in place, he instantly knew that what Washington needed to find success was largely already there.
Beyond the makeup of the roster, there was something else that had many feeling that the tide was about to turn in Washington. That something else was Ron Rivera.
From the moment he became the head coach in Washington, players bought in and believed in his ability to lead this team to better times.
"We knew that at the beginning. We knew when coach came we were going to have some chances to do big things," wide receiver Cam Sims said. "So it was just from the start of the season for real we had to just get right and get everything right, so we just started clicking."
Through every practice and moment of adversity, Rivera has been there to instill the work ethic and never-quit mentality in his players. He entered with the goal of changing the culture, and his first season has been dedicated to doing just that.
Part of what gave the players faith in Rivera was his confidence in each player. Rivera has consistently said he believes that the roster he has contains special players that can help the team win football games. Even when others have questioned certain moves, he's remained by their side and given them opportunities to grow.
Logan Thomas and Dustin Hopkins have experienced that first-hand. Even during his struggles kicking, Hopkins had Rivera's support and honesty. As Thomas continues to adjust to his new role as a pass-catching tight end, Rivera was the one who believed in his ability and gave him a shot in Washington. With that type of leadership, anything was possible.
"Even had he made a change, I’m really impressed with the way coach handles himself in a number of different ways. The way he talks to guys, the way he addresses the team, the way he bounces back from tough losses," Hopkins said. "The way he reacts to wins. I’ve just been really impressed as a coach and as a man.”
“Obviously I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if it wasn’t for that man," Thomas said. "So I owe a lot to him, I’m thankful for him. I’m blessed to be a part of this organization and playing under a coach like him.”
To the outside world, Week 13 may have been the marker that displayed what Washington can be with the pieces and leadership it posses. Ask anyone who's been with the team, however, and the performance was something they knew they were capable of for some time. That is all that has really mattered to the team, what they believe in. Whether or not other's buy-in is irrelevant.
“We don’t really worry about what everybody else thinks outside of the building. It’s just on the field and whoever we travel with and the coaches, that’s all we need," offensive lineman Morgan Moses said. "It’s just been exciting and we just got to keep on taking this momentum and moving forward.”