New Redskins head coach Ron Rivera has been tasked with the challenge of rebuilding the culture in Washington.
One of the first changes Rivera made upon his arrival was removing the ping pong table from the locker room. The table was enormously popular among the players and seen by some as a great way to bond with their teammates.
For whatever reason, the removal of the table became a big deal for Redskins fans. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on the matter, and it may have slightly been blown out of proportion.
Rivera joined the Redskins Talk podcast on Thursday and was asked about the changes he’s made since arriving in Redskins Park. While Ping Pong Gate had become a slight punch line, the head coach didn’t look at it like a joke.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think it is,” Rivera said. “I want everyone to understand, the most important thing in that building is the football team. People say, ‘Oh ping pong, you can develop [chemistry].’ Well, it’s one guy at a time. It’s taking away from the real focus other than the team, which is winning football games.”
Removing the ping pong table is just one of the many changes Rivera plans to make in order to change the culture in Ashburn. The head coach plans to only allow players to have their cell phone in the locker room — it can’t be seen in the training room, meeting rooms or during practice.
Basically, anything that Rivera thinks will be a distraction from winning football games, he doesn’t want around.
“I want everyone to understand, there are going to be some rules,” he said. “The rules are there for a reason.”
Rivera has been at Redskins Park for less than a month, but he knows the task that awaits him. The Burgundy and Gold have not been a good football team for years. They have two playoff wins this century, and have not appeared in a Super Bowl in almost three decades.
“The biggest thing, more than anything else, is you have to start from the beginning,” Rivera said. “You have to work your way up. That’s what we’re going to do once we get started.”
One of the first things the 58-year-old plans to do is establish the team’s core players. From there, he plans to build a team, an organization from the ground up.
“I want to go in, with everybody’s help, establish our culture,” Rivera said. “I want that culture to be a sustainable, winning culture. Not just winning football games, but winning in life. That’s what I really believe in.
“The vision has to be: We want to establish a winning culture,” he continued. “Now, it’s not accepting certain things that happened. If that’s not the right way, we have to be able to point it out and say ‘That’s not how we do things here. This is how we do it.’ Eventually, if people don’t want to buy into what the vision is, people don’t want to agree with what you do, then we have to get rid of them. That’s just the way it has to be.”
Those are strong and sincere words from Rivera. During his introductory press conference, he emphasized the fit in Washington as the main reason he took the job. Rivera was the first head coach to sign with a new team this offseason. He could have taken other interviews if he wanted.
But Rivera saw an opportunity to turn things around in Washington and hopes to eventually bring the organization back to where it was a couple of decades ago: consistent Super Bowl contenders.
He has an idea for how he wants things to be done and plans to build the Redskins culture his way.
“We are going to come out and say ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’ We’re going to ask our players to do it a specific way,” Rivera said. “If you do it our way and we win, the praise is yours. If we do it our way and we lose, it’s my fault. I will take the responsibility. See these shoulders? They are big enough.”
One word sticks out about what Rivera has preached since he became the Redskins head coach: accountability. And it’s something the organization has not had for quite some time.
“You can’t be afraid to be accountable,” Rivera said. “If I can hold myself accountable, then I can hold you accountable.”
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Ron Rivera’s simple, refreshing plan to change Redskins’ culture originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington