There was no great mystery to solve here.
But Ron Rivera confirmed what was widely assumed when the Washington Football Team released Dwayne Haskins on Monday.
The decision was his. He checked with owner Daniel Snyder first, of course. But he made the call.
“I made the decision,” Rivera said Wednesday, per the Washington Post. “I informed the owner of my decision. He was supportive, and it was just something I felt we had to do. It was something I felt was in the best interest of both parties.”
Rivera’s admission comes as no surprise. He wasn’t with the team when it drafted Haskins in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft. Rivera benched Haskins twice this season, including during Sunday’s dreadful showing against the Carolina Panthers. He had also just stripped Haskins of his captaincy following a breach of the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol.
That Rivera made the call is obvious. But it remains noteworthy.
Snyder is widely believed to have hand-picked Haskins with the No. 15 pick in 2019. He was reportedly “fixated” on Haskins and didn’t sit in on any interviews but his at the pre-draft combine.
That scenario embodies the top-down meddling from Snyder that has plagued his tenure as owner since he bought the franchise in 1999 — a 21-year reign of dysfunction, failure, incompetence and alleged misconduct.
For long-time fans who witnessed the Joe Gibbs glory days that came with three Lombardi Trophies, nothing would be sweeter than the ouster of the franchise’s much-loathed owner and the shameful shadow he casts. Since that option’s not on the table — for now, at least — Snyder stepping back and letting football-competent people make competent football decisions is the next best thing.
And it appears that he might actually be doing just that for the first time since buying his favorite team.
Snyder vowed to hand Rivera the keys when he hired him last offseason. Rivera arrived as a respected, no-nonsense coach and manager with years of experience in the NFL. It was the exact kind of hire an owner ready to cede control to somebody who knows better than him would make.
But still, this was Snyder we’re talking about. Was he really going to let Rivera run the show? Could he truly resist his urges to control?
So far, it looks like he has.
In making decisions like waiving Haskins and cutting Derrius Guice in August, Rivera is acting on what appears to be legitimate autonomy in football decisions. Is that autonomy due — at least partially — to Snyder’s focus on off-field battles? Maybe. The culture change promised and needed in Washington extends well beyond the football field.
But if, and until, Snyder is compelled to sell, any sign of his ceding power in the organization is a step in the right direction.
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