The Washington Commanders are putting the final touches on preparations for Sunday’s divisional game against the Dallas Cowboys

The Commanders have already been eliminated from playoff contention, but the game likely still carries significance for fourth-year Washington coach Ron Rivera.

After a nine-year run with the Carolina Panthers, Rivera took over as head coach in Washington in 2020. 

The team managed to win the NFC East division in Rivera’s first year despite ending the year with a 7-9 record.

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Billionaire Josh Harris took over as the franchise’s controlling owner before the 2023 season began, and the team’s lack of success over the past four years has fueled speculation Rivera will likely not be retained.

Controversial former team owner Daniel Snyder hired Martin Mayhew as the general manger in 2021 but allowed Rivera to have final say on football matters. On Friday, Rivera acknowledged Harris plans to split the general manager and coaching duties, with a fresh start coming for the organization in the next few weeks.

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“It’ll be separate, and that, I think, is going to be really good,” Rivera said after running his final practice of the year and, possibly, his NFL career.

The respected coaching veteran, who turns 62 Sunday and could be dismissed as early as Monday morning, had largely been reluctant to talk about his tenure in Washington. He got wrapped up in the day-to-day coaching that ramped up after Thanksgiving when he fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and started calling the defensive plays.

Being back in the thick of coaching after 3½ years of what he called “managing” gave Rivera a thrill and reminded him how much he missed a hands-on approach.

“I had certain responsibilities before that — you get pulled away from certain things,” Rivera said. “You got to deal with certain things. You got to respond to certain things. You got to correct or set up. So, that was different. But being in the middle of it now, yeah, that’s kind of cool.”

The Commanders have dropped seven consecutive games. But team leaders never sensed anything from Rivera about giving up on a lost season, even knowing it was unlikely he would return.

“He’s been very encouraging of us,” top wide receiver Terry McLaurin said. “He hasn’t really come down with a bad demeanor or a ‘woe is me’ attitude because of our season. I think we all know we’ve had a hand in where we’re at, but he’s just kept things consistent for us.”

First-year Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy has adopted a similar approach of digging into his job and not addressing his uncertain future. 

After arriving in Washington to show what he could do without Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid and two-time NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes, Bieniemy appears to be in no man’s land. Despite his success in Kansas City, Bieniemy has yet to land a head coaching job in the NFL.

“The only thing I can worry about and control is today,” Bieniemy said Thursday. “You can only live in this particular moment. You can’t worry about tomorrow. You can take care of tomorrow when tomorrow gets here.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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