When Ron Rivera went about putting together his staff, the Redskins coach relied heavily upon those who coached with him in Carolina. Of Rivera’s 21 assistants, 13 were with him at his previous stop.
That type of of carryover can be common in the NFL. Coaches routinely hire people they have a pre-existing relationship with.
The pipeline from Carolina, however, isn’t just supplying coaches.
Rivera’s decision to trade for former Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen this week shows the 58-year-old coach wants players, too, who already understand his system.
Since hiring Rivera, the Redskins have added Allen and three other former Panthers to the roster: linebacker Thomas Davis, linebacker Jared Norris and tight end Marcus Baugh. Rivera also tried to sign Greg Olsen before his former tight end joined the Seattle Seahawks instead.
Some might view the reliance as risky. After making the Super Bowl in 2015, the Panthers went 29-35 over the next four seasons with only one playoff appearance (2017). Is it the right move to hire so many associated with those losses?
Rivera has consistently said the Redskins are not in rebuild mode — he wants Washington to be competitive this year. In January, the coach said he wanted to have a staff of teachers and players who understood the culture he was trying to instill.
Bringing in those who already know his expectations should, theoretically, speed the process.
Rivera, talking to a Charlotte radio station this week, said he wanted Allen because the 24-year-old knows offensive coordinator Scott Turner — one of the former Panthers coached who’ve joined the Redskins.
Allen’s knowledge of the playbook will be especially important, given Rivera might have less time to practice in the months ahead. The NFL’s offseason practices remain indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak. Rivera said no one knows when business as normal will resume.
“He understands what I’m looking for,” Rivera said of Allen. “He understands what Scotty is looking for, so hopefully we can take that and use it to our advantage with out new team.”
The Panthers made Allen available amid a teardown under new coach Matt Rhule. Over the past few months, Carolina has released a slew of notable veterans, including former MVP quarterback Cam Newton.
In free agency, Washington has signed 13 players who have not played for Rivera before, including Wednesday’s acquisition of tackle Jeremy Vujnovich.
Believe it or not, the Redskins aren’t the first to team to pillage Carolina for parts. Even further north, the Buffalo Bills hold strong Carolina ties as general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott worked with Rivera years ago. Since their arrival to Buffalo in 2017, the Bills have signed a series of former Panthers — bringing in defenders like defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, Kurt Coleman and Captain Munnerlyn.
This offseason, the Bills signed former Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler and former Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, who had his best years in Carolina.
The Bills hope the 32-year-old can salvage his career by reuniting with McDermott, his former defensive coordinator.
The joke around the league is that the Redskins are making a run on the Bills for the title of “Panthers North.”
But all kidding aside, the moves have helped Buffalo’s development. Beane and McDermott transformed the Bills from league cellar-dwellers into playoff contenders. Buffalo has made the postseason twice in three years, and is even listed as AFC East favorites now that Tom Brady is no longer with the New England Patriots.
The Redskins would happily welcome that success.
Every Panthers-related hire the Redskins have made under Rivera:
— Kyle Allen (quarterback)
— Thomas Davis (linebacker)
— Marcus Baugh (tight end)
— Jared Norris (linebacker)
— Scott Turner (offensive coordinator)
— Jim Hostler (wide receivers coach)
— Pete Hoener (tight ends coach)
— John Matsko (offensive line coach)
— Travelle Wharton (asstistant offensive line)
— Drew Terrell (assistant wide receivers)
— Sam Mills (defensive line coach)
— Steve Russ (linebackers coach)
— Richard Rodgers (assistant defensive backs coach)
— Ben Jacobs (assistant cornerbacks coach)
— Todd Storm (quality control coach)
— Vincent Rivera (quality control coach)
— Jennifer King (running backs coaching intern)
— Rob Rogers (senior vice president)
— Ryan Vermillion (head trainer)
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