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Commanders Season in Review - A Quarterback Away?

Definition of middle of the pack, the Washington Commanders barely missed the playoffs finishing with an 8-8-1 record. The team started three different quarterbacks, had a four game losing streak, multiple three game winning streaks and was one of the worst teams in the NFL before turning into a team that controlled its playoff destiny.

Up and down. Up and down…and not just on the field.

The Commanders dealt with the shooting of rookie running back Brian Robinson before the season even began. Miraculously, he only missed the first month of the season.

Team owner Dan Snyder found himself in hot water all season. In early December a 79-page report was released by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform. The report was deeply damaging to perhaps the least-liked owner in the NFL.

“We saw efforts that we have never seen before, at least I haven’t,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, who chaired the committee. “The NFL knew about it, and they took no responsibility.”

The “it” referenced essentially involves a longtime toxic work culture that Snyder “permitted and participated in,” according to the report. The team owner also obstructed a congressional inquiry by dodging a subpoena and intimidating witnesses from cooperating with authorities.

Beyond a player getting shot and a front office in turmoil, the team had its fair share of on-the-field issues, mainly at quarterback.

Washington acquired Carson Wentz this past offseason in a trade with Indianapolis. His first season did not go as planned. Injured in Week 6 in Chicago, Wentz only played in eight games, starting seven. In his seven starts, Washington went 2-5.

Taylor Heinicke took over for Wentz as the starter in Week 7. He went 5-3-1 as the starter and was benched in Week 16 against the 49ers and never played again.

Washington was in position to be in position going into December. The team was 7-5 and likely just a couple of wins away from getting into the playoffs. Unfortunately, those wins never came.

The Commanders went 1-3-1 in the final five games, with the only win coming against Dallas in Week 18, after Washington was already eliminated from playoff contention.

Rookie quarterback Sam Howell started for Washington against the Cowboys and gave Commanders fans a lot to think about heading into the offseason. He threw for a touchdown and ran for one too, helping Washington to a 26-6 victory to close out the year.

Looking ahead…

Out of nowhere, the NFC East was probably the best division in football this year. The Commanders are the only team from the East to not reach the postseason and they only missed out by a game.

The defense, specifically the defensive line, is the strength of the team. Players like Chase Young and Deron Payne are young staples of the team, along with linebacker Cole Holcomb, who only played in the first seven games of the season.

On offense, the pieces are there. Running back Brian Robinson will be poised for a breakout second season after a strong rookie year, alongside mainstay Antonio Gibson.

Wide receiver is perhaps the teams strongest position, with a killer duo of Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson, who scored 7 touchdowns in his rookie campaign.

The question is…who is the quarterback?

Here’s my worst-case scenario for next year: If the Commanders go into training camp with an open quarterback competition with Wentz, Heinicke and Howell all vying for the job.

The old saying goes that if you have more than one quarterback you have no quarterback. Usually, that applies to two and that is what Washington dealt with all year. But three? That can’t happen.

I expect Washington to move at least one if not two of the three quarterbacks off the roster and proceed with either Heinicke or Howell as the guy. The Wentz experiment simply did not work.

My last thought heading to next year is that, although I don’t think he should be, Ron Rivera will be on the hot seat.

Expectations were low and the team was off to a 1-4 start and still Rivera almost had this team in the postseason. Of course, the decision to start Wentz in a must-win game in Week 17 aged horribly, but that is really his most glaring poor decision. I think he did a lot more with this team than most head coaches could.

It might be playoffs or bust for the Commanders in 2023. But in an NFC East that is now widely considered the NFL’s best division, is that realistic?


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