ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — It took until just over 48 hours before what's almost certainly his final game coaching the Washington Commanders for Ron Rivera to get reflective.
About his four years in charge. About handling off-field issues that had nothing to do with football. About how this season under new ownership went wrong on the field after a hopeful start.
And about how everyone knows change is on the horizon following the season finale Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. Rivera acknowledged controlling owner Josh Harris will be splitting general manager and coaching duties moving forward, with a fresh start coming for the organization in the next few weeks.
“It’ll be separate, and that, I think, is going to be really good,” Rivera said Friday after running his final practice of the year and, possibly, his NFL career.
The respected coaching veteran, who turns 62 Sunday and could be dismissed as early as Monday morning, had largely been reluctant to talk about his tenure in Washington. He got wrapped up in the day-to-day coaching that ramped up after Thanksgiving when he fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and started calling the defensive plays.
Being back in the thick of coaching after three and a half years of what he called “managing” gave Rivera a thrill and reminded him how much he missed having a hands-on approach.
“I had certain responsibilities before that — you get pulled away from certain things,” Rivera said. “You got to deal with certain things, you got to respond to certain things, you got to correct or set up, so that was different. But being in the middle of it now, yeah, that’s kind of cool.”
The Commanders (4-12) have lost seven in a row, and any talk of playoff contention was gone in November. But team leaders never sensed anything from Rivera about giving up on a lost season, even knowing he wouldn't be back barring a sudden, unforeseen change of events.
“He’s been very encouraging of us,” top wide receiver Terry McLaurin said. “He hasn’t really come down with a bad demeanor or a ‘woe is me’ attitude because of our season. I think we all know we’ve had a hand in where we’re at, but he’s just kept things consistent for us.”
Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has adopted a similar approach of digging into his job and not addressing his uncertain future. After coming to Washington to work under a defensive coach to show what he could do away from Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes and potentially get an NFL head-coaching job, this season has not gone as planned and left Bieniemy in a sort of no man's land.
“The only thing I can worry about and control is today,” Bieniemy said Thursday. "You can only live in this particular moment. You can’t worry about tomorrow. You can take care of tomorrow when tomorrow gets here.”
Rivera said he thinks Bieniemy can still get a head coaching gig based on his time in Kansas City, when the Chiefs won two Super Bowls.
“I’m talking about his whole career,” Rivera said. “I mean, guys who’ve done less have gotten opportunities.”