John Madden’s influence on professional football can hardly be measured. He won a Super Bowl with the Raiders in 1977 but for multiple generations he’s the name behind perhaps the most influential sports video game in the world.
For Redskins fans, however, Madden might mean something way more important.
After two decades of struggles and a disastrous 3-13 campaign in 2019, the Redskins hired Ron Rivera in January. The former Panthers coach has one of the best reputations in the NFL, and a helluva nickname in Riverboat Ron.
The nickname has quite a backstory (see the video above) but it's not without merit. When Rivera first took over as head coach with the Panthers, his teams fought hard, but often came up short.
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After meeting with Madden and reviewing game tape, Rivera decided to press the gas. The story is pretty incredible.
"It was 4th and 1 and we kicked a field goal, he said. And I said it put us up by six. But then they came down, scored a touchdown. kicked the extra point and beat us what could you have done differently? He says, Well, I could have gone for it on fourth down. He said absolutely! So you’ve played enough football, you’ve got a good football team. Go with your gut instinct. I said, well, I was just going going by the book. He looked at me, said Ron, what book? So there’s a whole book about baking those types of decisions, those decisions are made by guys that have experience and understand the
game. The guys played the game because of coached the game just like you have. Use your gut experience. Use your intuition. You have enough of it. You know how to do it. And so I’ve kind of kept that mentality going into my third season and got into a couple of fourth down situations and said, you know what, if we can do it here, man, we can keep it rolling. And essentially, because when I did it for the first time with our offense and we converted, they came to the sideline and a bunch of em said man, thanks for believing in us, coach. And the realization that, OK, I got it. I got it."
As his profile grew across the NFL during his tenure with the Panthers, Rivera’s charitable work gained more and more coverage. That’s when the Riverboat Ron nickname came to matter most, and the best part was Rivera's daughter came up with the idea.
"Everything that we do with this, we do it for charity with the proceeds going to a specific charity, whether it be the USO, the Veterans Bridge homes in Charlotte, the Humane Society or the Ronald McDonald House. We really try to take care of it, but we also try to use it for it for for good."
At multiple points this offseason the new Redskins boss has talked about how he’s better prepared to build his team, his staff and his organization the second time around. Much of his success the first time around came after meeting with Madden, and learning to be more aggressive when the situation calls for it.
The second time around?
Rivera is already Riverboat Ron.
Who knows what happens next.
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