Commanders' Ron Rivera 'confident and comfortable' in job status

ASHBURN, Va., -- Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera said he's "confident and comfortable" in what he has done since joining the organization during a turbulent period in the franchise's history and hasn't thought about his job security.

With a 4-6 record entering Sunday's game vs. the New York Giants and with a new owner in Josh Harris, Rivera's job status will be a topic of conversation. Harris has said he'd give the football operations, including the coaching staff and front office, the full season so he could best evaluate his next move.

But Rivera is in the fourth year of his program and, though they won the NFC East in 2020, the Commanders have yet to finish with a winning record under him. Rivera said his main focus remains developing quarterback Sam Howell, in his first season as the starter, and the entire offense. Washington has not posted a winning record since 2016 and hasn't won a playoff game since the 2005 season.

"My big disappointment is that we haven't played as well on defense as we've needed to. Does that make my job security shaky? It could," Rivera said. "I have no idea what Mr. Harris is going to do. The truth is, it's the nature of the game. I get it. If it happens, it happens. If I stay, I stay. Until then we will continue to work."

Rivera has been through this before. In 2019 he was fired by new owner David Tepper in Carolina after nearly nine seasons with the Panthers.

That's why he said it's not difficult for him to block thoughts about his future. In Carolina, he guided the franchise to a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance in 2015. The Panthers went 11-5 two years later and, two years after that, he was fired when the team fell to 5-7 following a loss to Washington.

In Washington, Rivera was granted full control of the football side and became the face of the franchise. During this time Washington: changed its name; was the subject of investigative stories into the organization's culture under owner Dan Snyder; was investigated and fined $10 million by the NFL; was investigated by Congress and the Federal Trade Commission. The Drug Enforcement Agency raided the office of former head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion.

Rivera also dealt with his own cancer. In August 2020 he announced that he had squamous cell carcinoma. Though he was done with his treatments during the season, the effects of the treatments on his body lingered for a few years, impacting his stamina and energy.

"S---, I've been through enough," Rivera said. "The last 3½ years has not been easy. Anyone who thinks it's been easy, the hell with them. I'll be honest. That's how I feel about the last three years. It's been a lot. We've done a lot; we've had our moments. The thing that feels good at the end of the day and the questions that need to be asked: Is the culture better and have we found the quarterback? That's all I can control. Our guys will show up and play hard to the bitter end, and we'll see what happens."

Rivera has said in recent weeks that he believes Washington has its quarterback of the present and future in Howell. Through 10 games, Howell leads the NFL with 2,783 yards (and has 32 more pass attempts than any other quarterback). He's tied for fifth in the NFL with 17 touchdowns and tied for fourth with nine interceptions. Rivera said he continues to have conversations with Harris about players, schemes and the games.

"Mr. Harris has been terrific," Rivera said. "He's playing everything close to the vest, as he should, and it's his prerogative as the owner to make decisions he feels are best for the future. We'll continue to work and play hard and see how it unfolds. I'll control what I can and that's what goes on on the football field."

Washington is coming off a last-second loss at Seattle. It traded its two starting ends -- Montez Sweat to Chicago and Chase Young to San Francisco -- at the Oct. 30 deadline. It has left the Commanders thin at the position, especially with James Smith-Williams, who started the past two games at left end, out with a hamstring injury.

"Last week we didn't get the pressure on the quarterback I would liked to have had," Rivera said. "[Seahawks quarterback] Geno [Smith] was struggling. It would have been good to put more pressure on the quarterback. It would have helped us and given us a better opportunity to win, but I'm going to work with what we have and deal with what we have and stick to what I've said."