WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins have hired Ron Rivera as their coach, the team announced Wednesday morning, bringing the franchise a popular leader who is widely respected around the NFL.
“After several meetings with Coach Rivera, it was clear he is the right person to bring winning football back to Washington D.C.,” Redskins owner Dan Snyder said in a statement. “He is widely respected around the league as a man of great integrity and has proven to be one of the finest coaches in the country.”
In the same statement, Rivera expressed enthusiasm about the new job.
“While I love the storied history of the franchise, I am focused on the future and excited for the opportunity to win football games with this talented young team,” he said. “After meeting Dan Snyder, it was clear we are aligned in our passion for the game and he supports my vision to turn the team around. I look forward to surrounding myself with great people and getting to work.”
The Redskins said Rivera would hold an introductory news conference Thursday afternoon at the team’s headquarters in northern Virginia.
Rivera, the former coach of the Carolina Panthers, reached an agreement with Snyder after the two met Monday, and one person with knowledge of the situation said the Redskins filed Rivera’s signed contract with the NFL league offices on Tuesday.
The team did not disclose terms of the deal, but the NFL Network reported Tuesday that Rivera had agreed to a five-year contract.
Rivera was working Tuesday to assemble a staff of assistant coaches, while the Redskins were in the process of reconfiguring their front office in a manner that was acceptable to Rivera, according to multiple people familiar with the team’s planning.
Former Jacksonville Jaguars and Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said Wednesday he has agreed to become Rivera’s defensive coordinator. Del Rio, who is viewed as one of the league’s top defensive minds, is 93-94 as a head coach and was in charge of Denver’s defense for three seasons, during two of which the Broncos gave up the second fewest yards in the NFL.
As the son of an Army officer from Puerto Rico, Rivera is the second nonwhite head coach in team history and the first as a full-time coach. Terry Robiskie coached four games as an interim replacing Norv Turner in 2000.
Rivera, 57, is seen as the kind of positive personality who can change a fractured culture around the Redskins. For the past 8½ years, he coached the Panthers, helping transform them from one of the NFL’s worst teams to one that won the NFC South three times in a row. In 2015, he led the Panthers to a 15-1 record and the NFC championship before losing to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
The NFL considers Rivera a minority coaching candidate, putting the Redskins in compliance with the Rooney rule, which requires each team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one nonwhite candidate. The Redskins also considered former Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a one-time Redskins defensive coordinator, and probably would have interviewed Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy if the search had continued.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group that works closely with the NFL on its hiring practices, praised the Redskins’ decision to hire Rivera.
“The hiring of Ron Rivera is a win for diversity,” said Rod Graves, the group’s executive director. “Washington is getting a superior person and an outstanding head coach.”
Lewis is not expected to be a candidate for a front office job with the Redskins, a person familiar with the situation said Tuesday. Former Ohio State and Florida coach Urban Meyer could be a front office candidate for the Redskins but also appears interested in pursuing NFL head coaching vacancies elsewhere, a person with knowledge of the situation said.
Former NFL player, scout and personnel executive Louis Riddick, now an NFL analyst for ESPN, is thought to be a front office candidate for the Redskins, one person with knowledge of the situation said. Other possibilities include current NFL executives Martin Mayhew of the San Francisco 49ers, Eliot Wolf of the Cleveland Browns and George Paton of the Minnesota Vikings. Mayhew is a former Redskins player and once was the general manager of the Detroit Lions. Respected executive John Dorsey became available Tuesday when he and the Browns agreed for him to leave his general manager job in Cleveland.
Because of his Army background, Rivera has brought a military sense of order and discipline to his job while at the same time earning a reputation as someone who could nurture players. Carolina took quarterback Cam Newton with the first overall pick of the NFL draft in 2011, Rivera’s first season as Panthers coach, and Rivera helped Newton grow into the league’s top offensive player four seasons later.
Rivera’s work with Newton was seen as even more impressive because his background is as a defensive coach. A former linebacker who was a part of the vaunted Chicago Bears defense that won Super Bowl XX in January 1986, Rivera was often able to put together solid offenses with sometimes dominant defenses in Carolina.
Overall, he was 76-63-1 with the Panthers before being fired earlier this month, after a loss to the Redskins.
It has been a tumultuous few days for the Redskins, who finished a 3-13 season with a 47-16 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The next day, Snyder fired team president Bruce Allen, announcing the dismissal of the man who had run the team for 10 years in a terse three-sentence statement that was emailed to reporters and posted to the team’s website early Monday morning.
Later Monday, Snyder fired Larry Hess, an 18-year member of the team’s training staff who had been the head trainer for the past nine seasons. Though a Snyder favorite, Hess had drawn the ire of many players, including cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who tweeted: “Larry gone. What a surprise, not.”