Ron Rivera offered a refreshing degree of honesty about how he handled his quarterbacks in 2020, telling 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier that if he could do things differently, he would have held an open QB competition in training camp rather than handing Dwayne Haskins the starting job.
With an abnormal offseason devoid of OTAs and in-person instruction, Rivera opted to give Haskins every snap with the starters from the start of training camp through Week 4 of the regular season, when he made the decision to bench Haskins after the Washington Football Team's 31-17 loss to Baltimore.
With the benefit of hindsight, Rivera says he can see now that was a mistake, in a season in which four different quarterbacks — Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke — would ultimately start at the position. Rivera also admits he was surprised by the negative reaction by the fans to his decision to bench Haskins.
"Yeah, I was surprised by the reaction," he told Paulsen and Rouhier on Monday. "First of all, I did certain things specifically to try and find out as quick as possible. As I detailed, [Haskins] took every snap with the ones for seven straight weeks in training camp. For four straight weeks of football, he played every snap as the quarterback, and the idea behind that was really to evaluate."
"We didn't have the normal OTAs and minicamp, we didn't have the normal training camp/preseason games, so there was a lot of unknowns, and getting the exposure I did gave me an opportunity to see what we had at the position," Rivera said. "Now, I made the move for more reasons than one, but also because, as I said, a couple things that stood out: We had a group of other guys that we had to develop that was important to have them get their chances to grow. And, nobody was running away with the division. So I made the decision based on those factors as well."
It's difficult to second-guess Rivera's decision to move on from Haskins now. For starters, Washington did end up winning the division. Also, Rivera ended up moving on from Haskins altogether anyway, releasing the former first-round pick before their Week 17 regular-season finale.
Asked if he could go back to the beginning, when he was first hired, if he would have done things differently at the quarterback position, Rivera says he would have spread the reps with the ones around a little more evenly.
"Yeah, I would have. I would have," Rivera said. "I think the biggest thing I would have done was I would have created a few more opportunities mixing everybody around, as opposed to saying, okay, I'm gonna stick with just the one guy and do that. I think now in retrospect — and again, hindsight is 20/20 — I would, and it's something that I'm gonna chalk up as an experience. You know, you learn from experience. And if I ever get in this situation again, I will look to do it differently."
"You're essentially saying maybe it would have been better to have a competition or at least get guys reps," Paulsen suggested.
"Well, what I'm saying is I made a mistake and I'm owning up to it. And that's the truth," Rivera said. "I mean, to put it as simple as that, yes, that's what I'm saying. I'm just being honest."
You rarely hear NFL coaches publicly admit to mistakes in such a way. Hearing it from Rivera now perhaps speaks to the reputation he's garnered around the league, of being refreshingly candid when so few others in his position would.
Listen to Grant & Danny's full interview with Ron Rivera below.