Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera explains why he fired long-time assistant Sam Mills III before the season

It’s rare for an NFL coach to shake up his staff just weeks before a season kicks off, but that’s exactly what Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera did with the firing of defensive line coach Sam Mills III.

Mills is no longer with the organization, and his firing came just 33 days before Washington’s first game of the 2022 season.

Rivera cited a “difference in philosophy” as to why he decided to fire Mills, though it’s worth noting that he didn’t go into details and said the decision had to do with some observations he’s had.

As mentioned, it’s a bit shocking to see this type of move so close to the regular season. It’s also shocking considering Rivera’s ties with Mills. He had been an assistant coach under Rivera ever since the latter was named head coach of the Carolina Panthers back in 2011.

That’s over 10 years of mutual coaching experience, so it is rather interesting that Rivera decided to make the decision now, of all times.

“I’ve known Sam a long time and he’s a very good football coach,” Rivera said, according to ESPN. “I appreciate everything he’s done. He helped us win a division title our first year and things got tough last year, but there were some things I felt I wanted to change.”

Mills’ father, the late Sam Mills Jr., was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this past weekend as part of the 2022 class. Mills Jr. was a legendary linebacker whose motto, “Keep Pounding”, was recently adopted by the Carolina Panthers. He played for the Panthers from 1995 to 1997 and was an assistant coach for the team from 1998 to 2004. Mills Jr. died in 2005 after a two-year battle with intestinal cancer.

The Commanders will replace Mills III with Jeff Zgonina, who was an assistant defensive line coach.


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