CHICAGO – Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera strongly defended his role in acquiring quarterback Carson Wentz, then ended his news conference by walking off the podium.
“I’m sorry, I’m done,” Rivera said as he headed toward an exit door after Washington’s 12-7 win over the Chicago Bears on Thursday.
Rivera was fired up during much of his news conference, upset about certain penalties or what he called undisciplined play. He also was animated about what his players had been through the past four games — all losses. But he saved his most heated comments about Wentz.
In an ESPN story Thursday, it was reported that owner Dan Snyder was the one who wanted Wentz. Washington traded for Wentz this past winter.
Rivera strongly denied that the owner demanded they trade for Wentz. Rivera had compiled a list of analytics that showed Wentz’s effectiveness and had him on a list of desired quarterbacks to possibly acquire entering the offseason. He has said they learned Wentz was available while at the scouting combine in Indianapolis last winter. The report also came out two days after Rivera had answered “quarterback” when asked the difference between his rebuilding team and the other three in the NFC East. Rivera later said he meant that those teams had quarterbacks who had been with their teams longer.
“Everybody keeps saying I didn’t want anything to do with Carson, well bulls—,” Rivera said. “I’m the f—ing guy that pulled out the sheets of paper, looked at the analytics, watched the tape when we were at Indianapolis, OK? And that’s what pisses me off, cause the young man doesn’t deserve to have that all the time.”
He then ended the news conference.
Wentz later said he was unaware of the ESPN story, but, he said, he appreciated Rivera’s passion.
“Coach Rivera, he’s awesome,” Wentz said. “I’ve got a ton of respect for him, playing in this league for a while from afar, and getting to play for him is even better. He speaks his mind and he’ll be direct and to the point and in this business that means a lot. Guys love that about him and he’s going to be straight up and very motivational. Guys respond to him very well. I’m appreciative of him.”
For Rivera, it was another time where he had to answer questions about off-the-field stories. The ESPN article detailed owners disdain for Snyder.
“I’m trying to get beyond all the stuff that’s on the outside as far as noise,” Rivera said. “What I’m focusing on is the development of this team. I don’t want to get talking about something that I can’t control. I have no input I have nothing to do with that, what I want to do is everything in that room. And that’s what I just wish we could stay focused on. It’s difficult, it’s hard, but for whatever reason, we’re going to stick to what’s interesting and that’s playing football.”
Rivera rarely gets as animated in news conferences as he did Thursday, gesturing at times toward the locker room to emphasize his players.
“I’m going to speak my mind for a minute,” he said. “For the last couple of weeks, honestly it’s been hard, it really has, you lose four games in a row and everybody just wants to get on you. And they’ve played their asses off, they really have, they play their asses off for everybody. They come out and they show up, they work hard, alright? They don’t complain, OK? They hear all the stuff and they’ve got to deal with it. I get that and I respect them for that cause they’re resilient and they come back.”
Rivera also received the game ball from his players after winning for the first time in Chicago as a coach. He played for the Bears from 1984 to 1992 and has talked about how that shaped his coaching career. He said he received well-wishes via texts and emails from former teammates before the game.
“We all know what this place means to coach Rivera,” Washington receiver Terry McLaurin said. “A lot of the reason the way he is today as a coach is because of his time spent here as a player, the connections he made. To come back and get a win in tough circumstances was big for our entire team.”