The Washington Commanders fell to 1-4 after a 21-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Sunday and became the lone team in the NFC East with less than four wins.
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera met with the media the next day to discuss the loss. When a reporter asked him why he thought the other teams in the division were further ahead in their rebuilds, Rivera had a one-word answer.
“Quarterback,” he said.
When a reporter pointed out that the Cowboys have won four straight games with their backup quarterback Cooper Rush, Rivera elaborated on his answer.
“The truth is that this is a quarterback-driven league, and if you look at the teams that have been able to sustain success, they’ve been able to build it around a specific quarterback,” he said.
But Rivera added that he has no regrets about signing Carson Wentz, who threw an interception on the 2-yard-line in the final minute of Sunday’s loss. He said they chose him because they believe in him.
“I think our quarterback has done some good things. There’s been a couple games that he struggled. But you look at his numbers from yesterday, and he was OK,” he said. “The way he performed yesterday, he just shows you what he’s capable of.”
The next day, Rivera walked back his comments a bit. He appeared on WBIG radio’s “Don Geronimo Show” and said that he had talked to Wentz and the rest of the team about how his comments crossed the line.
“I had a mea culpa moment and that I should know better,” he said, according to The Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala. “I created a little bit of a distraction, and that’s one thing that I try not to and it’s one thing that I’m very aware of. Again, it’s one of those things that when you misstep, people can’t wait to dive onto it and jump onto it and hold onto it without an opportunity to explain yourself. So, hey, that’s on me. I should know better.”
Why Alex Smith criticized Ron Rivera
Former University of Utah and Commanders quarterback Alex Smith appeared on ESPN’s pregame “Monday Night Football” broadcast and admitted he was in disbelief when he heard what Rivera said.
“I had a really hard time watching that,” he said, according to NBC Sports. “When I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not here to defend Carson Wentz. He’s had a tumultuous career and ups and downs, but this is a defensive head coach that’s absolutely driving the bus over his quarterback.”
Smith pointed out that the quarterback isn’t the only area on the team struggling, noting the shortcomings of the running game and defense, which should be Rivera’s specialty as a defensive-minded head coach.
“The blame has got to be spread around,” he said. “This is a team sport. It is the ultimate team sport. How can a head coach stand up there in front of the media and utter one word, and it’s ‘quarterback’?”
What has Carson Wentz said about his performance?
Wentz is in his first season with the Commanders after a spending last season with the Indianapolis Colts and the five seasons before that with the Philadelphia Eagles. On Tuesday, reporters asked him about Rivera’s comments.
“Addressed it, handled it, nothing for me that I’m openly concerned about,” he said, according to Sports Illustrated. “Coach is a very straight-forward upfront guy, he addressed it in the team meeting, which I thought was really cool, and what he meant by it all. So, I feel very confident in that.”