Rivera says Washington has 'target on our chest' in 2021 originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
When Ron Rivera took over as the Washington Football Team's head coach last January, he inherited a 3-13 group that went winless in the NFC East in 2019.
One year later, Rivera's squad won the division -- despite a 7-9 record -- thanks in large part to a 4-2 divisional record, including sweeps over the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles.
Moving forward, though, Rivera knows his club will now be the hunted in the division, rather than the hunters.
"I just know this going forward: We’ll have the target on our chest because we’re division champs," Rivera said during locker room cleanout on Sunday.
The last two times Washington won the NFC East, the Burgundy and Gold haven't responded well the following season.
Washington's magical 2012 campaign was followed by a 3-13 year that ended with Mike Shanahan fired, while the franchise's 2015 division-winning season was succeeded by an 8-7-1 year with Washington missing out on the playoffs.
After winning the division in his first year as Washington's head coach, Rivera is motivated for his team to come back better this fall. In short, Rivera is hoping to avoid complacency at all costs.
"The key to it really will be the way we come back, and we approach the upcoming season," Rivera said. "If we come back and we’re fat and lazy, we’re going to get the crap kicked out of us. It’s that simple. So, that won’t be acceptable.
"It’ll be my job, it’ll be the coaches’ job, it’ll be our leadership’s job in terms of player leadership to make sure we don’t do that," Rivera continued.
While Washington may be defending division champions, there are plenty of holes the organization must fill this offseason. The team needs to find its quarterback of the future -- something Rivera said will be a top priority this offseason -- as well as additions at receiver, linebacker, and a few other positions.
One of Rivera's first priorities this offseason will be looking over his roster from top to bottom, seeing where the team's strengths lie, as well as where they must improve before they take the field again.
"[We must make] sure that we do a good job evaluating our current roster and improving it, and then evaluating our scheme and see if what we’re doing is giving our players the best chance to be successful," Rivera said. "Then, we’ll go from there."
Improving the roster of a division-winner that finished the previous season under .500 is nothing new for Rivera. In 2014, Rivera was the head coach of a Carolina Panthers team that won the NFC South with a 7-8-1 record.
Rivera -- who has said multiple times recently that there are parallels between the two teams -- turned that 7-8-1 Panthers team into a 15-game winner the following year, a campaign that ended with a Super Bowl appearance.
Towards the stretch run of the 2020 season, one phrase Rivera reiterated was that Washington is "on the way up." While it exceeded almost all expectations this past season, the franchise's ultimate goal is still out in front of it.
"The big idea behind that is we got to playoffs, and everybody’s excited about that. That’s great. But that’s not the goal. The goal is to win the Super Bowl," Rivera said. "Being on the way up is referring to the fact that we’re still rising. We’re still working to get to what our ultimate goal is."