Washington Football head coach Ron Rivera isn’t one to prolong the inevitable. The problem is the flag they gave him is red instead of white.
Trailing 31-20 with five minutes remaining against Cleveland on Sunday, Rivera opted not to stop the clock with his three timeouts. A traditionalist would say always use remaining timeouts, but it makes me remember my first year as a reporter overhearing an argument between a basketball coach and his star player over tactics in the final moments of a lopsided loss. Basically, the coach said you didn’t succeed all game so why drag it out so you can’t finish well, either.
Translation: Rivera knew his offense couldn’t score 11 points in two quick possessions after a turnover-fest by quarterback Dwayne Haskins all afternoon. Indeed, it probably would have led to another turnover in the eventual 34-20 loss.
Rivera has been candid this season on why he loses with timeouts in his pocket. He doesn’t want extra snaps in a sure loss that might see a player injured. After all, Washington already lost defensive linemen Chase Young (groin) and Matt Ioannidis (arm) in the second quarter. Losing Terry McLaurin or Haskins in the final moments would give it “Body Bag Game” status and derail the season for sure.
It’s a safe move like not playing veterans in meaningless preseason games. Rivera views the final minutes of lopsided losses as meaningless, too. No sense cashing in timeouts for more problems.
Rivera has been open about the team’s offensive problems. Haskins’ mechanics have been a problem as he learns the offense. He stares holes through intended targets for defenders to steal passes. Haskins was an absolute mess versus Cleveland with three interceptions and a fumble gifting the Browns 24 points and the game.
Indeed, it was a winnable game with a good quarterback, but Rivera isn’t listening to the crowd here demanding change. Rivera’s sticking with Haskins . . . until he doesn’t. And when Rivera doesn’t, start looking at scenarios for drafting Trevor Lawrence next spring.
Rivera offers transparency in a town where everything is gray. Past Washington coaches and officials would talk of winning off the field rather than why they were losing on the field. Rivera will flat out admit Haskins is not playing well enough, but what’s he supposed to do after a 1-2 start – surrender the season to a backup passes and throw away a 2019 first-rounder after a handful of starts?
Worrying over Rivera not spending all of his time outs is a smoke-and-mirrors move. It’s not the root of the problem, which is the offense needs several playmakers to win regularly rather than just the passer. Sure, Haskins playing well would be a good start, but giving him more time versus the Browns would have just added to the misery.
And in 2020, ending misery as quickly as possible is desperately needed.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks