The decision was second-guessed in the moment. As Washington trailed in the fourth quarter by two scores with less than two minutes left against the Arizona Cardinals, FOX commentators Dick Stockton and Brady Quinn were wondering why coach Ron Rivera wasn’t using his timeouts. Social media observers also openly criticized the choice.
But after Washington’s 30-15 loss, Rivera was steadfast in his belief that he made the correct call.
Speaking to reporters, Rivera said he wasn’t going to risk his players to injury with the game out of hand. The team had lost Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff earlier in the contest due to a right knee injury.
“At that point, it’s a little different, it’s a little fruitless to go out there and expose guys to getting hurt,” Rivera said. “To me, if I felt like the game was closer and in hand, I probably would have done it. But I’m not going to do that. To me, it doesn’t make sense. I’ve played this game as well as coaching it and I’ve seen guys try to do things and call timeouts and run a play and someone gets hurt.
“That, to me, is counterproductive to what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to develop a football team.”
Rivera’s explanation will likely be picked apart. Despite his reasoning, Rivera still allowed the Cardinals to drain the clock down to 30 seconds left when Arizona was in field goal territory — only down 27-15. Cardinals kicker Zane Gonzalez hit an easy 28-yarder, capping off an 11-play, 74-yard drive that lasted 6:12. Critics will argue that Rivera should have used his timeouts to give Washington the best chance to try and complete a comeback.
The scenario was reminiscent of another game that happened just last week. Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio failed to use his timeouts as the Tennessee Titans ran the clock and hit a game-winning field goa with 17 seconds left. Fangio defended his choice after the game, but then admitted his mistake the next day. “That was totally my fault,” Fangio said last Monday.
From the sound of it, Rivera isn’t likely to reverse course as Fangio did. He was adamant that the game was already out of hand. He said he’d “hate to lose a guy” and then lose the game on top of it.
“This is a long season,” Rivera said. “We’ve got 14 games left to play. We’ve got an opportunity to learn and grow. And that’s probably going to be a little bit more important right now than exposing our guys to getting injured in a situation like that. You’ve got to be careful.”
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