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Commanders Fire Defensive Line Coach Sam Mills III

Sam Mills Fired

Washington Commanders Head Coach Ron Rivera announced Tuesday that the team “relieved” defensive line coach Sam Mills of his duties.

Mills had been under Rivera since Ron was hired by the Carolina Panthers in 2011, and was originally hired by that franchise in 2005. He joined the Washington Football Team in 2020 and helped the team win the NFC East crown in the regime’s first season.

Commanders Defensive Line Coach Sam Mills has been 'relieved of his duties'. — NBC Sports Commanders (@NBCSCommanders) August 9, 2022

Rivera said the decision was “just a difference in philosophy for the most part.” He went on to say, “I felt like it was a change I needed to make.”

“Very difficult,” Rivera said of moving on from Mills. “I’ve known Sam a long time and he’s a very good football coach. I appreciate everything he’s done. He helped us win a division our first year and things got tough last year. There were some things that I wanted to change.”

Since 2020’s unexpected run to the NFC East title, the defensive line has largely underachieved in comparison to the talent they have. With players on the level of Montez Sweat, Chase Young, Jonathan Allen, and Daron Payne, you should be smothering opposing teams, not finishing with losing records.

Jeff Zgonina Has Been Promoted

Rivera announced that assistant defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina has been promoted, and will take over the duties left vacant by removing Sam Mills. Zgonina has been the assistant defensive line coach in Washington since Rivera’s first season as coach after being the San Francisco 49ers defensive line coach in 2017-2018.

“I like where we’re at in the room,” Zgonina said about the d-line. “We’re not there yet but we’re getting closer and closer every day.”

When asked if knowing Mills made this a tough situation for him, Zgonina was direct with his response.

“Yes, it always is as a player and as a coach. Either you get fired or you get traded or whatever. On both levels, it’s always hard because he is a friend. He always will be a friend. I’ve known him almost his whole life because I played with his dad. So it is hard, you know, but also I have a job to do, he had a job to do and we’ve gotta keep moving forward.”

Zgonina played 17 seasons at defensive tackle in the NFL with stints in Pittsburgh, Carolina, Atlanta, St Louis, Indianapolis, Miami, and Houston. Was a member of the St Louis Rams during their Super Bowl XXXIV season.

“You’ve got to learn to expect the unexpected and as soon as you get comfortable, the NFL will surprise you,” defensive line captain Jonathan Allen said. “I think the timing was very surprising, but at the end of the day, it’s not my job to worry about that.”

When asked about what Zgonina brought to the equation, Rivera said, “Obviously, Jeff played the game and so he’s got a tremendous amount of experience and knowledge that he does share with the players. And he’ll continue to share with the players. He’s got tremendous enthusiasm, so he’ll continue to be that guy for them.”

Kerrigan Will Continue To Shadow Staff

The changeup at defensive line coach won’t affect the team’s plan with Ryan Kerrigan. When Coach Rivera was asked if Kerrigan would continue to help on the defensive line, he said nothing has changed.

Rivera also went on to talk about Hall of Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp’s visit to mini-camp. and then again Tuesday. Saying the events had been long planned and had nothing to do with Mills being let go.

Coach Rivera says Ryan Kerrigan will continue to shadow the coaching staff — NBC Sports Commanders (@NBCSCommanders) August 9, 2022
“Well, he’ll continue to shadow, like he’s been doing, you know. Ryan came out here to kind of see what this was like, you know, he’s truly interested in coaching But for the most part, you know, he’ll continue to do the shadowing that he’s been doing.”

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