Two years ago, on Christmas Eve, I was knocking on Brian LaFemina’s door in Loudoun County to see if he and the group of suits he brought with him had indeed been fired by owner Dan Snyder as the new business team for then-Redskins — just nine months after they had been hired.
On Christmas Eve this year, I was making phone calls to see if I could find out if Snyder’s fellow NFL owners have reached the point where the stench that emanates from his ownership of a once-marquee franchise has become too odorous to live with anymore.
Change? Really? Ron Rivera may have brought better lipstick to Washington, but the pig remains a pig.
Rivera, a sympathetic new coach who has been battling cancer and is basking in the glow of his team’s revival this season and its improbable battle for the NFC East title, discovered the power of the aura of self-destruction that engulfs this franchise this week when he was forced to defend continuing to do business with the owner’s bad-boy quarterback.
Dwayne Haskins, last year’s top pick and a Snyder favorite, put a compromised Rivera and everyone else in the building at risk with his reckless disregard for COVID-19 protocols while partying after he led the team to a 20-15 loss Sunday to Seattle.
Rivera snapped at reporters Wednesday over repeated questions about Haskins’ rule-breaking — captured on social media in photos showing the quarterback partying in public without a mask.
Rivera told the press the team had no plans to cut their backup quarterback, who may start Sunday against Carolina if Alex Smith can’t play because of his calf injury.
Yes, the 23-year-old risked his coaches’ and teammates’ health and the rest of the 2020 season with his irresponsible behavior. But he apologized. So the team took away his captaincy and reportedly fined him $40,000.
“I’ve answered enough questions on this,” Rivera said. “You guys have had enough opportunities to get enough answers about this. We are playing Carolina. If I don’t get any Carolina questions, I’m done. Let’s be honest. Again, don’t make what’s interesting important. What’s important for this franchise right now is that we’re going forward. We play on Sunday. I want to get that really clear. We play on Sunday. The game on Sunday, to me, is more important than what has happened. What has happened has been dealt with. There have been consequences. Now what it is, is we’re going to what’s important, not interesting.”
Not important? I thought changing the culture was the whole point behind bringing Rivera here.
Everything about Haskins is important because the owner personally drafted the Ohio State product. Before Haskins, who calls the owner “Dan,” was a Buckeye, he was a student of the same private school attended by the owner’s son. He was taken at No. 15 last year over the objections of the football people in the building who were supposedly running the draft.
You know what else is important — and apparently was left untouched by reporters? Did the coach talk to Snyder about what to do with Haskins? Did the owner put the kibosh on any plans to cut Haskins loose from the team?
As far as “culture change,” kicking Haskins off the team would have been an Albert Haynesworth-type statement — and would have answered a lot of questions about what Rivera has been empowered to do.
Rivera once benched Cam Newton in Carolina for the start of a game for not wearing a tie. But he doesn’t entertain the idea of banishing this problem child from the building for what is possibly the worst transgression in the league in 2020?
Rivera doesn’t get to dictate the questions. He can control his answers. He can refuse to talk about it. He can get up and walk away — much easier in front of a computer screen than in a roomful of reporters.
But as much as he would like to believe, those reporters don’t work for the team. I know, this may come as a shock to some reporters as well.
Second — is he kidding? Not one question about the ongoing embarrassment of his boss being played out publicly in the Washington Post, New York Times and other media about allegations of sexual harassment, hidden hush money payoffs to victims, ugly infighting between owners and other juicy “Law and Order” episodes?
Jay Gruden might say that Rivera ain’t seen nothing yet.
No one else is answering questions — not the new team president, Jason Wright, nor anyone else who can speak for Washington Football. The owner is speaking through the courts. His latest comment was calling a $1.6 million payoff to an alleged victim of sexual misconduct by the owner “meritless.”
That’s one of several legal battles the owner is engaged in, including claims that one of his minority owners, Dwight Schar, was part of a disinformation campaign to embarrass Snyder.
The notion that someone would have to engineer a campaign to embarrass Snyder seems “meritless.” You would think that was a self-driving car.
But there is one member of the organization who has become the face of Washington Football, who is there several days a week, every week, to speak with reporters.
When they start asking Rivera about hush money and extortion, then maybe the coach can talk about what’s “important.”
Listen to Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan and the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.
• Thom Loverro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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