Remember the baptism scene at the end of The Godfather? When Michael Corleone establishes himself as the boss and “finishes” all family business?
Well, nobody got popped laying on a massage table, but Redskins head coach Ron Rivera made his biggest moves yet on Monday.
He didn’t quite finish all the family business, but the coach made three significant changes that firmly show his cultural rebuild is well on its way at Redskins Park.
Things started with the trade for Carolina's Kyle Allen, a competent backup quarterback and enough of a threat to properly push Dwayne Haskins to improve. Then the team released troubled safety Montae Nicholson; physically talented, undisciplined on the field and with severe off-field baggage. The last move for Rivera? Trading disgruntled cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
These moves weren't about making the Redskins immediately better on the football field. In fact, in the immediate aftermath, losing Nicholson and Dunbar definitely hurts the team as both were starters last season.
Rivera's "Big Monday" was about establishing his culture at Redskins Park, and making clear that tolerated behavior from the previous regime would not fly under the new Ashburn order.
Trading for Allen made sense, even if Washington paid perhaps a bit too steep of a price in a fifth-round draft pick. Allen showed promise in 2019, winning his first four starts, before his game and the Panthers season fell apart. This is the rare trade, however, where the best-case scenario means the player never sees the field. Rivera wants Allen to push Haskins in competition and for Allen's built-in knowledge of offensive coordinator Scott Turner's terminology and scheme. Due to coronavirus, the Redskins and the entire NFL will be short on offseason work, and Allen might be able to help Haskins learn quickly.
If the Allen trade made it clear that Rivera is turning the Redskins offense over to Haskins, the departures of Nicholson and Dunbar made sure that Rivera is turning over the Redskins roster.
Releasing Nicholson was long overdue.
He was suspended late in the 2018 season after being arrested in a bar fight. What's worse? He wasn't suspended last season after a young woman died of a drug overdose in his home. He played the following Sunday. Police said Nicholson had nothing to do with the incident, but still, with that much off-field drama and a litany of dumb penalties on the field, it was well past time to move on.
Rivera claims to be a man that won't suffer fools and to do so meant releasing Nicholson. Now, it's done.
The Dunbar trade was the biggest move. After all, he's the best player of the three. Rivera traded away Dunbar for a fifth-round pick, and being perfectly honest, the 27-year-old cornerback is worth more than a fifth-rounder.
But here's the problem - Rivera has made clear he will only tolerate players that are all in on his methodology.
"If they're not all in, if they're not willing to do it your way, it's time to f----- get rid of those guys," Rivera famously said in a December story on NFL.com, just days before taking over as the Redskins head coach.
Well, they might call him Riverboat Ron, but he wasn't bluffing with that message.
Dunbar wanted out. Now he's out.
He was unhappy with his contract and felt disrespected by his role with the new organization, and now he can talk with Seahawks management about his deal. Could the Redskins have gotten more in a trade for a quality corner? Maybe. Keep in mind, however, Dunbar has just one year left on his contract and some injury history. When he's on the field he's been good, but teams aren't always paying for past performance.
Again, it's important for Redskins fans to understand that sending Dunbar as far away as possible wasn't just about the trade compensation. Rivera is working on a building a new culture at Redskins Park based on accountability and honesty. Dunbar didn't feel like that was attainable, so Rivera sent him away.
Culture change isn't easy. It's going to have cuts, scrapes and some bruises. Rivera has said repeatedly it will take time to build things right in Washington, and Monday's moves were part of a long-term rebuild.
But having a bad culture is far worse. Look at the Redskins results the last decade with Bruce Allen at the helm. The goal was to "win" every transaction, to hold out until the last possible second to possibly maximize a situation. Only it didn't work too often, and sometimes, it backfired in terrible ways. The Kirk Cousins mess. The Su'a Cravens mess. The Trent Williams mess.
Rivera doesn't do messes. Things get cleaned up.
That does leave one last piece of business to tend to: Trent Williams. He wants out, but depending which side is talking, the markets aren't bearing fruit. Williams wants a new deal with significant guaranteed cash, and the Redskins want fair draft compensation in return.
This trade can't be as much of a GTHO move as Rivera pulled with Dunbar. Williams is more established and much better - a seven-time Pro Bowler. But if Monday taught us anything, Rivera isn't going to wait around to get these deals done either.
Riverboat Ron might be a gambler, but it looks like he is done bluffing.
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