Ron Rivera: Commanders 'should be ascending' after acquiring QB Carson Wentz

In Ron Rivera's third season as the Carolina Panthers coach, the club broke through with a 12-win campaign. Now entering his third season in charge of Washington, Rivera feels the pressure to take that next big step.

"I do feel it," Rivera said recently, via ESPN. "This is the year that says, 'We're going to ascend.' And we should be ascending."

The Commanders have finished with seven wins in each of Rivera's first two seasons in Washington. The first year came with an improbable NFC East title at 7-9.

"What happened my first year was an anomaly," Rivera said. "I don't get too caught up in that. My second year was kind of on par, maybe a step back, because even though I felt we were immature, I was hopeful we could get it straightened up and we could work it and go in the right direction."

All offseason, Rivera has pointed to the third year being when he expected his program to take hold. The 60-year-old coach believes the trade for Carson Wentz pushed Washington over the hump.

"It gets us a few steps in the right direction," Rivera said of acquiring Wentz.

For Rivera's first two seasons, quarterback has been the biggest impediment to success. In his first year, Washington cycled through Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke. Last year, it was Ryan Fitzpatrick, Heinicke and Garrett Gilbert getting starts.

The move to Wentz might be an improvement over the undrafted Heinicke, but how much of a boost remains to be seen after Wentz struggled brutally down the stretch of his lone season in Indianapolis. The Colts' desperation to move on from Wentz should frame any discussion about the QB's ability to push a team over the top.

The Commanders -- like the Colts last year -- put their eggs in the Wentz basket, believing he's the missing piece to a playoff team.

Rivera knows winning is the only thing that will prove the club correct.

"How long you're at someplace is all about winning," Rivera said. "That will never change. If you're successful, you can have a nice, long run. If you're not, it will be time to move on. That's the crux of this business."

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