Ron Rivera is currently constructing his version of the Redskins, and a primary focus of that project is to redevelop the culture. He wants guys who are serious about football, who put the team beyond themselves and who consistently make the right decision.
This past Saturday, though, Rivera made the call to draft LSU tackle Saahdiq Charles. Charles missed six games, an enormous chunk, during the Tigers' 2019 season because of a suspension. That doesn't necessarily point to someone who's serious about football, who puts the team beyond himself and who consistently makes the right decision.
So, why did Rivera opt to include Charles in his first class in Washington when the lineman appears to contradict much of the coach's vision?
On Saturday night, after the franchise made the last of its eight selections, Rivera and VP of Player Personnel Kyle Smith each had the chance to give an answer. In doing so, they provided a detailed look into the considerable research they did on the New Orleans native.
"We've done a lot of work on him," Smith said. He wasn't kidding.
After determining Charles' talent — Smith called it "tremendous" — and slotting him on their board based on that, Smith and his staff "dove" into Charles' character. A Redskins area scout, a cross checker, Senior Director of Player Development Malcolm Blacken, Rivera and Smith all took turns looking into the player's suspension, his level of regret for it and what he'll do to ensure a problem like it doesn't happen in the pros.
A key part of the digging came when Rivera had a chance to discuss Charles with the leader who coached him at LSU, Ed Orgeron.
"He was very positive about how the young man came in and the way he was contrite about the mistake he had made, about doing things the right way and trying to learn," Rivera told reporters Saturday.
While some may have penalized Charles for the suspension and marked him way down for it — you have to figure some did, too, since a prospect of his skill was still available on Day 3 — Rivera made sure to also commend him for staying clean the rest of the year after the slip-up.
That, along with the Zoom meetings, the chat with Orgeron and the endless searching all made the idea of choosing Charles palatable to the Burgundy and Gold. But the aspect that turned it into a priority came from Charles himself.
"One thing that really caught my attention was he had made the statement that when you have something taken away from you, you want it back, you want to do it the right way," Rivera said. "That really swayed me. I’m one of those that do believe you do give guys opportunities, especially if they show that they want it and this is a young man that wants it."
Charles was always going to make it to the NFL, even with his LSU troubles. Sure, they cost him positioning and money, but overall, that was never the real question.
Now, the true test is actually beginning. Will Charles make the Redskins look incredibly smart or incredibly gullible? Were his struggles in school temporary or a signal of more to come?
Rivera and Smith understand the risk they're assuming, but as they were just setting out on their time with Charles, each seemed ready do their part to guide the fourth rounder to a successful career.
"He’s a young man who has a bit of an issue that we’re trying to control and help him out with," Rivera said. "Again, hopefully we keep him going where he needs to be and that’s straight ahead."
"He understands why he was taken where he was," Smith said. "We’re excited about the structure that we’re going to give this kid, the culture that Coach was talking about that we’re going to provide this kid. And we’re excited to give him an opportunity with the Redskins."
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