The Residual Impact of Jack Del Rio’s Comments

Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
Credit: Brad Mills/USATODAY Sports

Washington Commanders defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio has put himself in hot water with his recent comments on Twitter and to local media. Most notably, Del Rio calling the January 6th riots at the capital a “dust-up”. This has caused many adverse reactions in the media and has caused others to call for his job. Head coach Ron Rivera has since defended him and Del Rio has also issued an apology.

The Residual

Despite the apology, despite how you feel about his statements, despite where you stand in the crazy, polarizing, divisive political spectrum, despite whether you feel politics has a place in sports or not, despite the impact it has, if any, on the players, staff, and/or the locker room, the truth of the matter is Jack Del Rio put himself in this position. He has made himself a target. Anytime a professional athlete, coach, or front office personel makes a political statement, they make themselves a target from the opposite side of the aisle. That’s just the way things are today, especially in this social media driven age.

I will not be getting into the politics of anything in this article, or most likely any article for that matter. I could, quite frankly, care less. However, I do know that Jack Del Rio should have been on the hot seat already for this upcoming season. Washington’s defense was quite possibly the most disappointing unit in football last season. The unit finished bottom third in points, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and third down percentage. That came one year after finishing as one of the top defenses in the league in 2020. You can point out the injuries, you can point out the strength of schedule. One can even make a case about the strength of opposing quarterbacks being the difference. The only point worth mentioning, though, is that Del Rio’s unit was an embarrassment too many times last season. At the end of the day, that’s on him.

Potential Replacement Candidates

I’m going to preface this next section with this: Ron Rivera has stressed the importance to the media about his only focus being about football and his desire to only field football related questions. He’s done everything but that, it seems. With all the scandals, investigations, new name and brand, and now political tweets from what has seemed to be his most trusted assistant coach. I’m not sure how much more of this Rivera will stand for, especially what’s within his control. Should Washington’s defense disappoint again this season, Rivera should look in a different direction at the defensive coordinator spot. Here are a few potential suggestions.

Lovie Smith

Credit: Bob Levy/Getty Images

The new head coach of the Houston Texans? Yeah. If I was betting man, I’d bet that Lovie Smith is not the head coach for the Houston Texans for another season. That’s not anything against Smith’s ability as a head coach, but Houston is a dumpster fire right now. They’re likely headed for another double digit loss season. Things are going to get very ugly for the Texans organization. If I was Lovie Smith, I don’t really know if I’d want to stick around.

This suggestion stems from what Rivera would want in an assistant coach; someone he can rely on and not have to watch over. Lovie brings over fifteen years of NFL coaching experience and has found quite a bit of success over his career. Some might consider the Tampa-2 defense dated, but Smith started transitioning away from that scheme late last season. Could he morph the scheme he implements into more of what Rivera would want to run? I think it’s very possible and doable.

Chris Harris

Credit: Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Current Commanders defensive backs coach Chris Harris would be a great in-house candidate. He interviewed with the Indianapolis Colts and Philadelphia Eagles for defensive coordinator positions this offseason. Why should Washington let another young, promising assistant go find success elsewhere?

Harris having never been a defensive coordinator could be a little risky for Rivera. He could catch lightning in a bottle with Harris, though. Harris is a feisty, high energy coach that players love. Should the position open up, Rivera should consider Harris.

Larry Foote

Credit: Cliff Welch/Icon Sports

Larry Foote is currently the inside linebackers coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Foote served as the Bucs outside linebackers coach for the past three seasons and has been a linebackers coach in the league for going on eight years now. His stock seems to be on the rise. It wouldn’t be at all shocking seeing Foote’s name pop up as a candidate for defensive coordinator positions soon. He’s cut from the same mold as Rivera; a physical linebacker who played on great defenses on a Super Bowl team. In Foote’s case, he played in Super Bowls, having won two during his time in Pittsburgh.

In another comparison, Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrable was also a physical force on the inside. He played on many of those Patriot Super Bowl teams. Vrable has been the Titan’s head coach for going on five seasons. Foote could eventually see a similar rise and becoming a defensive coordinator is the natural next step. Again, having never been a defensive coordinator could be a risky move for Rivera. However, I think this potential candidate could prove to be a smart hire.

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