Ron Rivera Clarifies Knowledge of Commanders' Playoff Scenarios After Viral Video

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 1, 2023

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 24: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders looks on against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of the game at Levi's Stadium on December 24, 2022 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera exemplified why you always have to account for the worst-case scenario.

Following Sunday's 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Rivera appeared to be surprised to learn his team could be eliminated from playoff contention in Week 17.

Chad Ryan @ChadwikoTWW

Here's the video.<br><br>I am absolutely gobsmacked that Rivera didn't know that the Commanders could be eliminated today.<br><br>How does this happen in the modern NFL?<br>Did this impact his decision to start Wentz? <br><br>I'm so confused right now. <a href="https://t.co/9BNCr26mxm">pic.twitter.com/9BNCr26mxm</a>

Some wondered whether Rivera was being sarcastic and simply picked the worst time. He later clarified to say he hadn't in fact understood all of the postseason implications Sunday:

John Keim @john_keim

Ron Rivera clarified his postgame remark about not knowing they could be eliminated. Said he was frustrated by the question; said he didn't know they could be eliminated because he thought they would win &amp; only focused on what would happen IF they won. Didn't consider alternative

You expect an NFL head coach to believe in his players and foresee a win, but it's also a coach's job to understand the bigger picture. For a coach as experienced as Rivera to ignore the consequences of a defeat is almost unfathomable.

And it's the perfect capper to a dreadful Sunday for Washington.

Rivera's original response and his subsequent follow-up are likely to grab the headlines and obscure the totality of his squad's defeat.

The Commanders are now guaranteed to finish no better than .500, meaning they still haven't posted a winning record since 2016. The drought is almost the same for Rivera, whose last winning season was in 2017 with the Carolina Panthers.

In what was effectively a must-win game, the 60-year-old also handed the offense back to Carson Wentz, who promptly finished 16-of-28 for 143 yards and three interceptions.

Taylor Heinicke hasn't been prolific this season, throwing for 1,859 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions in nine starts. And Washington was riding a three-week winless streak with him at the helm.

Still, you didn't need the benefit of hindsight to argue he was a superior option to Wentz in such a critical situation.

Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith

The Commanders are 5-3-1 when Taylor Heinicke starts and 2-5 when Carson Wentz starts.<br>Wentz has more interceptions and more sacks in fewer starts.<br>Ron Rivera's failure to identify which of his quarterbacks was better is the reason the Commanders will miss the playoffs.

The ongoing drama surrounding the potential sale of the franchise makes it difficult to project too far into the future. A new ownership regime could mean Rivera is afforded a little more job security than he'd have with Daniel and Tanya Snyder.

But days like Sunday will make it tough for him to justify getting another year on the sideline.