The Washington Commanders were the most active team on the day of the NFL trade deadline, making significant changes to their roster. On Tuesday, they traded away their top pass rushers, Chase Young and Montez Sweat. The Chicago Bears acquired Montez Sweat in exchange for a second-round draft pick, and the San Francisco 49ers received Chase Young in return for a third-round pick. This move may not be unusual for a team with a 3-5 record looking to acquire draft picks, but it takes on a different significance for the Commanders.
Chase Young and Montez Sweat were both first-round draft picks still on their rookie contracts and despite not being perfect players, they had proven themselves as effective edge rushers in the NFL. Typically, players like them are considered cornerstones to build a team around, not trade assets. However, Washington chose to move them, reportedly at the urging of the new ownership group, as revealed by Dianna Russini.
This decision not only reflects the Commanders’ lack of expectations for success in the current season but also indicates their readiness to undergo a significant roster overhaul. As a natural consequence of this rebuilding process, the next step could involve parting ways with head coach Ron Rivera.
In the past, Rivera was known for his fourth-down decision-making and defensive coaching expertise, leading his Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl appearance and consistent competitiveness. Moreover, he was recognized for his high character in NFL circles, making him a suitable leader during the tumultuous final seasons of Daniel Snyder’s ownership. Despite the team’s struggles, Washington did not completely collapse, largely due to Rivera’s stabilizing presence.
However, the ongoing controversies surrounding Rivera have concealed an uncomfortable truth – his coaching abilities have declined. The “Riverboat Ron” era, characterized by bold decisions, is a thing of the past. He now tends to opt for conservative choices in critical moments, costing his team crucial victories. His decision to retain Jack Del Rio as defensive coordinator, despite controversial comments and underperforming defenses, has raised concerns. Last season, his persistence with quarterback Carson Wentz arguably cost the Commanders a playoff spot, as Wentz went unsigned this offseason and ended up on the New York Giants’ practice squad.
Rivera’s questionable decision-making may have played a role in the team’s recent trade deadline activities. Reports suggested that the Commanders would consider selling off their assets if they lost a particular game. During their Week 8 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, Rivera’s failure to challenge a clearly incomplete fourth-down pass resulted in an Eagles touchdown. When questioned about it, Rivera’s response was less than reassuring.
With the ownership transition to the Josh Harris and Magic Johnson-led group, it was always likely that Rivera’s tenure would come to an end. The new ownership is likely eager to establish its own identity for the organization and distance itself from the legacy of Daniel Snyder as swiftly as possible. Removing Rivera, who was chosen by Snyder, is a logical and relatively straightforward step given his declining performance as a coach.
The decision to trade away talent like Chase Young and Montez Sweat signifies that a rebuild is in progress. While it may not be a complete overhaul, significant changes are on the horizon. Firing Rivera midseason seems unlikely at this point, as it wouldn’t provide an advantage in pursuing new coaching candidates, but his departure after the season is almost certain.
The recent trades indicate that Ron Rivera’s future with the Commanders is in jeopardy. While there is always a chance for a turnaround, it appears increasingly unlikely, and Rivera is now on the proverbial hot seat. It’s highly probable that he will receive a pink slip at the end of the season.