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When is the time to talk about Ron Rivera as Coach of the Year? Now?

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Ron Rivera might not win the award, but he certainly has a case to be the NFL Coach of the Year. 

Sure, Washington only has a 6-7 record, but at the same time, the Burgundy and Gold are in first place in the NFC East with three games to play. 

The record isn't all that impressive, but the level of play for Washington in the last six weeks has been quite impressive. The football team is riding a four-game win streak and playing stifling defense. Young players are contributing all over the field, and Washington has real reason for optimism in the future. 

But they also have reason for optimism right now, and Rivera deserves a ton of credit. 

It's been a messy year in Washington. Messy.

There's an ongoing sexual harassment investigation from the NFL, the team retired its 90-year-old nickname in July and 40 percent of the team is up for sale while majority owner Dan Snyder is waging legal battles on multiple continents with all sorts of allegations flying around. 

Despite all that, Rivera has his young team focused and prepared each week. 

The coach had his own cancer battle earlier this year. Seriously, this dude was getting chemo and experimental proton treatment about two months ago, and now his team is riding hot. 

What about on the field?

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Washington has lined up three different quarterbacks this year, but it wasn't until the veteran Alex Smith got back out there that the offense seemed to stabilize. The same Smith that missed nearly two years after a broken leg required 17 surgeries to fix, and infection almost forced amputation, and the road to recovery was more about walking than playing football. 

 

Rivera has handled all of it.

Meshing a talented young defense with a veteran coordinator in Jack Del Rio with rookie offensive coordinator Scott Turner. It's all working, and Rivera is in the middle.

Oh yeah - this has all happened in the middle of a global pandemic. As teams across the NFL have had Covid outbreaks, Washington has only had two players infected since the season began. And neither player was on the active roster at the time. 

There are other candidates for Coach of the Year. Brian Flores in Miami, Kevan Stefanski in Cleveland, Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Sean McDermott in Buffalo. 

There are options, and Rivera is no sure thing to win the award. It's not even a sure thing Rivera should win the award. 

Remember, however, Washington started the season 1-5. They looked awful. 

Now, at 6-7, with three games remaining and the NFC East title in their grasp, Rivera's Washington team has completely flipped around their season. 

He might not be Coach of the Year, what happens in the remaining three games will go along way towards determining that, but Rivera's in the conversation. 

A few months ago that seemed impossible to even consider.