One day after Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy stood at a news conference and guaranteed a win, Ron Rivera stood in front of his own team to address it.
The guarantee — “We’re going to win the game. I’m confident in that” — was all over the news, and Rivera wanted to make sure his players responded to questions the right way. But in delivering that message of caution to the Washington Football Team, Rivera went further in a fiery speech.
According to sources in the room on Friday morning, Rivera told his players that McCarthy’s comments weren’t for the press, they were for his own Dallas team. Rivera added that McCarthy must be trying to get into the heads of the Cowboys players and make sure they had the right mindset for Sunday’s game between the division rivals.
McCarthy was trying to reach Washington’s players, too, and get in their heads, Rivera said. His message: Don’t listen, don’t focus on it, don’t care.
It’s interesting from a psychological standpoint, Rivera told his team. McCarthy must be trying to convince his own players that they can do it. They’ve lost a couple and maybe they need that, Rivera insinuated.
One source said Washington’s players listened intently and took it all in stride, but they soaked it up.
Rivera publicly told an in-house reporter of McCarthy’s comments: “That’s interesting, it’s not important.” Washington’s preparation is what’s important, he noted before adding: “I think that’s another mistake because he’s now made it about him and what he said. It’s not about his players anymore. So, I think that’s a big mistake.“
To his players, Rivera went into more detail, saying that everyone is picking the Cowboys to win, despite them losing three of their last five. Dallas is favored, but play hard for each other and none of that matters, the coach asserted.
Focus on that, rather than allowing McCarthy to get into anyone’s heads. Rivera, as the coach, would worry about that.