The WFT Youth Movement, Practicing Patience & What You Preach
I'm fine with what Ron Rivera thinks is the right thing to do for the short-term and long-term future of the Washington Football Team in general.
That doesn't mean I won't disagree with him at times. I do.
I didn't like their pursuit of Amari Cooper. He's a soft player. Talented but soft. They went hard after him because clearly he was a need but that's not the guy I would have danced with and then left the dance floor completely once I didn't land him.
It was the football equivalent to a seven-step deep shot and your quarterback unleashes the hose and overthrows a wide open receiver by a foot or two, on the first play or series of a game.
And then you never take a shot again the rest of the game.
Because of that aggressive pursuit, it's difficult to completely understand the mentality and approach that has clearly become the mantra of Rivera's first season.
The Washington Football Team is a young team. They're somewhat fragile and Rivera is not going to go for broke in the desperate pursuit of five or six wins.
What the (bleep) is the difference?
That's why he hasn't burned timeouts to no end for the desperate salvo that his meager offense can somehow show signs of life when all is going wrong, late in a game.
You don't have to like it, but you should be realistic and get it.
That's a deeper discussion for another column.
In this post, we should examine the youth component and the mantra of patience and development.
There's no question that the Washington Football Team are young in most spots. Sure Thomas Davis is a grizzled veteran. Ryan Kerrigan is an old fella on defense and Morgan Moses is the senior citizen of the offensive line, but they're young at quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, the left side of the offensive line and beyond.
Washington is mostly young on defense overall with the exceptions above.
They were ranked in the middle of the pack via Jimmy Kempski's research for Philly Voice on the initial day of roster cutdowns to 53 but it's a tightly grouped number difference from the youngest to where Washington is and was.
Not to mention they were in a four-way tie with other teams including the Cowboys so their ranking was really a top-ten number.
When you're young, mistakes will happen more often. Experience helps you absorb more adversity and many veterans will take those trying times in a better light.
We as parents have to protect our kids from dangers waiting for them as best we can.
Parents certainly do not have all the answers and never will. However, we have to try and take care of and shield them as long as possible.
Kids will push back and you have to stand tall. You can't give in every time. Or you negotiate and try to come to an understanding.
That's essentially the role Ron Rivera is playing. The father figure of the Washington Football organization.
He's looking out for their best interests whether they like it or not by preaching development and patience.
They might not like it privately. Media hates it. Media often fits whatever agenda they want to fit.
It's not just a convenient platform for Rivera during this election season. He knows that he has time to do it his way. The right way.
A few decisions that Rivera's made jump out to me as shining examples of this approach.
1. Releasing Adrian Peterson & Cutting Derrius Guice: The move surprised everyone especially because Guice was already kicked off WFT Island. These two decisions are joined together only by one bond. No desperation to win at all costs.
They didn't have to do either. Rivera could have easily allowed Guice to go on the commissioners exempt list and languish there. He didn't. Rivera cut him immediately upon finding out enough evidence that this was not just a innocent mistake.
Instead he made a stand and proved a point.
Peterson was 35 and had some gas left in the tank but Peyton Barber was easily capable of filling whatever role that Peterson was going to have and was quicker, cheaper and probably capable of the same production.
You don't make this kind of move if you're thinking about trying to squeeze every win out of the tube at all costs.
2. Not rushing Kendall Fuller: Fuller was not even listed in any way on the Week 3 injury report, played all 63 defensive snaps and was on the outside in nickel to start the game. This all tells me he probably could have played in Arizona when the secondary was bludgeoned by Kyler Murray and an outstanding group of receivers.
Yet, Fuller didn't play and suddenly was perfect and good to go starting a few days after? Rivera gave him the extra week to not try and win at all costs.
3. Taking every caution with Chase Young: Chase Young missed about a week of training camp with a hip flexor. Rivera wanted to make sure the No. 2 overall pick was healthy and then was ramped back up and in.
Sunday in Cleveland, Young may have been able to keep playing in what many called an important game. Yet, he was pulled and immediately ruled out.
That again tells me and it should tell you that he wasn't willing to risk losing Young for weeks when he could possibly return this Sunday.
4. Sticking with Dwayne Haskins and not over-reacting: It would be so easy to bench Haskins now or Sunday in Cleveland. The Bears finally pulled the plug on Mitch Trubisky and might never look back. They did that with a 2-0 start. Talk about general impatience.
Rivera could have easily yanked Haskins Sunday. It was probably his worst game as a pro because much more was expected and while some was delivered, Haskins made so many mistakes, you lost count.
He didn't and if his word means anything (I believe it does), Haskins won't get pulled this week either. At some point, you run out of patience but this doesn't appear to be the week for that.
5. Cutting Sean Davis in favor of Troy Apke and Kamren Curl: It would have been so easy to keep Davis, a young veteran who they spent a bit of money on instead of Troy Apke or Kam Curl. They didn't. It was the smart move and the correct move as everyone who had watched practice knew.
If Rivera was trying to squeeze another win out of the magic shell, he would have kept Davis, a known commodity that they targeted instead of keeping youth and the unknown in Curl and Apke.
These five examples lead us back to the point - the Washington Football Team is a young group. Inexperienced. Raw, Prone to mistakes with the ability to grow into "adults" together.
You aren't going to like the way Rivera does everything. You're going to question it.
That's fine. He's already bristling at some of the questions. He has a point.
I don't have to like every decision they make but I'm pretty sure I will like or understand many of them.
As long as I know this: What Rivera is preaching is not just for show. It's not just for a great quote. It's what he believes and has conviction in.
He's executing his message right in front of our own eyes.
For that - Rivera deserves a lot of credit, even if you hate the process.
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Chris Russell is the Publisher of this site, a part of SI.com. He can be heard on 106.7 The FAN in the Washington D.C. area and world-wide on Radio.com. Chris also hosts the "Locked on Washington Football Team" Podcast and can be read via subscription to Warpath Magazine. You can e-mail Chris at russellmania09@Gmail.com or follow him on Twitter at @Russellmania621