You will be hard-pressed to find a more old-school, hard-nosed NFL head coach than Ron Rivera. The former Chicago Bears linebacker has carved out a reputation as one of the league’s most respected coaches. Despite getting canned in Carolina, Rivera did not have to wait long to find a new home. However, before he even coaches his first game for the Washington Football Team, the 58-year-old must confront a new opponent not on the team’s schedule: cancer.
Ron Rivera has already dealt with adversity this offseason
Ron Rivera spent nine years with the Panthers before getting fired last December. The former NFL linebacker resurfaced quickly with the then-Washington Redskins. Of course, his brief tenure as the man in charge of the historic NFL franchise has featured plenty of adversity.
Before Rivera could even settle into his new surroundings, the organization came under fire for its controversial name. Dealing with the storyline still provided a distraction from his typical job duties. Dan Snyder eventually succumbed to the pressure from outside forces to drop the “Redskins” in favor of the Washington Football Team.
Tensions only increased when the Washington Post released a detailed investigative story about a culture of sexual harassment within Dan Snyder’s team.
Just two weeks ago, Rivera had to handle yet another controversy. Running back Derrius Guice got arrested and charged with counts of strangulation, assault, battery, and destruction of property. Washington cut the talented tailback immediately. Though it represented a blow to the offense it also sent a clear message that domestic violence will not be tolerated.
Rivera encounters new opponent with cancer diagnosis
With training camp finally underway, NFL coaches should be focused on preparing for their 2020 opponents. But for Ron Rivera, a new opponent got added to his schedule. And this one does not don shoulder pads or a helmet.
On Thursday, Adam Schefter reported that the 58-year-old has been diagnosed with cancer. According to ESPN, the squamous cell carcinoma in Rivera’s lymph node is in the early stages. It is considered “very treatable and curable.”
Rivera informed his team of his cancer diagnosis during a Thursday night meeting. Despite the medical setback, the man in charge of the Washington Football Team won’t let his newest opponent stop him from performing his job duties.
“I’m planning to go on coaching,” Rivera told Schefter. “Doctors encouraged me to do it. They said, ‘If you feel strongly, do it. Don’t slow down, do your physical activities.’ But everyone keeps telling me by week three or four, you’ll start feeling it.”
This new opponent may have thrown a wrench in Rivera’s first year at the helm. However, it also gives his players plenty of motivation to step up in a groundbreaking season for the historic NFL franchise.
Washington Football Team has extra motivation to deliver on the field
It certainly has been a whirlwind of an offseason in Washington. From changing the team name to dealing with the sexual harassment scandal to discovering Ron Rivera’s cancer diagnosis, it seems like a new obstacle emerges every few weeks. But as we inch closer to the 2020 NFL season, it only reinforces that Rivera’s players should have extra motivation to deliver on the field.
Washington must figure out what to do at the quarterback position. Alex Smith’s incredible recovery and return to the field at least shines a positive light on a franchise that has been clouded in negativity over the last few months. The former No. 1 pick will battle Dwayne Haskins for the starting quarterback job.
Speaking of Haskins, the second-year pro did not impress as a rookie. The one-year wonder must elevate his game quickly or risk losing the battle to Smith. Rivera could elect to go with the veteran anyways; Smith excels at managing the game and keeping the ball out of opponents’ hands.
Ultimately, Ron Rivera’s cancer diagnosis simply adds another layer of motivation for a group of players who need to usher in a new era of football in Washington. Let’s see if Rivera’s players respond with the team’s first winning season since 2016.