ASHBURN — During his introductory press conference on Thursday, Ron Rivera spoke of how discipline, teaching and a united vision with Redskins owner Dan Snyder will all go a long way in helping turn the franchise around.
All of those factors, plus many more, will be key in whether Rivera becomes the coach to finally elevate the Burgundy and Gold from their now decades-long run of mediocre at best to poor at worst football.
Perhaps the biggest factor, however, will be the growth of Dwayne Haskins.
The first-rounder, who'll enter his second season as a pro in September as Rivera enters his first with Washington, seemed to find a real comfort level as the team's starting quarterback near the end of his rookie year. Rivera saw that progress and it gave him confidence that Haskins can one day assert himself as a top signal caller in the NFL.
"I think he can become a franchise-style quarterback," he said. "I do. It's a process, though."
A process that, in Rivera's mind, could follow the one that Cam Newton went through with the Panthers while Rivera was in charge there.
"I've been fortunate that several years ago we drafted a guy as the No. 1 pick, and we had a plan, and what we're trying to do right now is develop that plan for [Haskins'] development as we go forward."
Rivera's answer then veered into unexpected territory.
"I also think there's a couple of good veteran quarterbacks that are obviously going to get some opportunities to play as well," the coach explained. "We won't know until we get ready to open up in September. Until then, everything's just a process. We can't get ahead of it."
Later, while on 106.7 The Fan, Rivera added that he doesn't want to anoint anyone and cares greatly about "competition."
Considering that the veterans he is referring to are either pending free agents (Colt McCoy and Case Keenum) or still rehabbing from a major, major injury (Alex Smith), plus the fact that Haskins is a favorite of Snyder's and someone who's billed as a critical figure in the Redskins' future, it was an interesting twist from the soon-to-be 58-year-old.
Does this mean there'll be a fight for the starting spot when OTAs open up in May? Who knows, but that feels unlikely at this point. Throughout his presser, it was very obvious that Rivera's a person who really cares about players earning their place, so he possibly was just trying to establish that in his first public appearance.
Regardless, the Rivera-Haskins partnership succeeding is the easiest way for this new era to succeed. The Rivera-Newton duo thrived for the most part in Carolina, which is why the Panthers had some really strong seasons in the middle of the 2010s and Rivera picked up two Coach of the Year awards.
If Haskins can keep improving, then odds are this reboot with Rivera can actually work. And if not? Well, let's not talk about that outcome just a handful of hours into this particular reboot, OK?
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