clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Three questions that need answers after Washington’s final three games

Ron Rivera is finishing up his second season as Washington’s head coach. With playoff hopes bleak, what are three key questions that must be answered when the season is officially over?

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Football Team Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With three games left, Washington has around a nine percent chance to make the playoffs. The four-game win streak may, unfortunately, end up being all for nothing if Washington is on the couch come wild card weekend. Before you look to blame COVID-19, which impacted the team late in the season, for why Washington did not make the playoffs, remember that the team started the season 2-6.

On Thursday, Head Coach Ron Rivera said that he would be disappointed if his team failed to make the playoffs. “Very much so,” Rivera stated. “The biggest thing, Matthew, is you wanna win, and you wanna get in the playoffs. I really do believe all you need is a chance. A big part of it too, though, is being healthy at the right time, getting players back at the right opportunity, not having a big distraction, being able to stay focused as you trend towards something.”

Rivera’s goal is to win all 20 games. “I’m not going to approach anything just saying, well, I hope we can finish this year with a winning record. No, I want to get into the playoffs. I want to win in the playoffs. I want to win it all. If I could win all 20 games, I’ll win all 20 games. That’s just my mentality. It’s always been my mentality.”

All competitors hate to lose, and Rivera is no different. “I hate to lose. In the position that I am in and what I do, I have to control myself. Just so everybody understands, Hey, it matters. Will we be disappointed, I’ll be tremendously disappointed. Seriously. And I do mean that.”

It is not officially over, but with a nine percent chance and a Washington team battling COVID-19 outbreaks amongst the staff and the players, another loss will ultimately disappoint Rivera, as he stated. However, as we move forward with the next three games, knowing Washington’s position, there are some key questions that we will all need answers to by the conclusion of Washington’s season.

Does Washington have the answer at quarterback currently on their roster?

On multiple occasions, Rivera has stated that during Washington’s four-game win streak, he and his staff need to evaluate the quarterback position internally and externally (free agency and draft prospects). Taylor Heinicke has played 13 games this year, starting in 12 of them. Heinicke’s ups and downs have created so much controversy among the local media and fanbase, but to this point has not decisively shown that he is capable of leading a team as their starter for an entire season for years on end. Heinicke missed week 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles due to COVID-19 protocols but will return against the Dallas Cowboys this week. Heinicke has an opportunity to face off against all three division opponents to end the season, and he’ll need three great games to convince his coaches that they do not need to look any further in their search for a quarterback.

If you ask me, we’ll be talking about the draft options or trade targets for Washington by the time March comes around.

Did Rivera’s new regime win in the off-season?

In Rivera’s first season in Washington, he didn’t make many front-office changes and allowed individuals such as Kyle Smith, who was Washington’s Vice President of Player Personnel, to stay on in 2020. However, Smith moved on the following year, and Rivera was not opposed because he intended to fully integrate Washington with personnel executives he was familiar with and trusted.

  • Martin Mayhew: General Manager
  • Marty Hurney: Executive Vice President of Football/Player Personnel
  • Rob Rogers: Senior Vice President of Football Administration
  • Eric Stokes: Senior Director of Player Personnel
  • Jeff Beathard: National Scout

Each staff member has a role in the free agents and draft prospects that Washington signed, in addition to Rivera, who has the biggest voice in the decision-making. Well, what will their grade be at the end of the season?

Some of the marquee free-agent acquisitions during the off-season include cornerback William Jackson III, receiver Curtis Samuel, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and tackle Charles Leno. Washington also traded for guard Ereck Flowers.

How did Washington’s front office for the players they spent the most money on?

Note, there are some successes in the more minor signings, such as receivers Adam Humphries and DeAndre Carter, maybe even safety Bobby McCain.

Now transition to the NFL draft, Rivera’s first draft with his fingerprints all over it, unlike last year with Smith still working for him. Washington drafted ten players, and because you cannot reach a definitive conclusion after one season, you’d have to ask how many players of the ten that Washington drafted showed signs of progress and promise?

Washington drafted linebacker Jamin Davis, offensive tackle Sam Cosmi, cornerback Benjamin St-Juste, and wide receiver Dyami Brown with their first four draft picks. The higher the round a player is drafted, the more expectations are put on the player and the more pressure put on the people responsible for drafting him. Have any of these four shown signs of progress and promise as the weeks moved on?

Like free agency, there are some successes (or signs of promise related to rookies) in the later rounds for Washington. Those successes include tight end John Bates this year.

Whichever answer you get when the season is over should ultimately boost your confidence in this regime or cause hesitancy.

Is Rivera’s team heading into the new season better than they were a year ago?

Rivera won seven games in 2020 and has six wins with three games left in 2021. If Rivera doesn’t win out, he will finish his second season under .500 again. Overall, Rivera is currently 13-17 as Washington’s head coach and has just three winning seasons in ten years as a head coach, dating back to his time in Carolina. It is not all about the record in Washington because the team was deficient in talent when Rivera got in town. So the turnaround was going to take some time. However, to what degree did we estimate the turnaround time? Furthermore, did Rivera, along with the media and fanbase, overestimate Washington’s talent on the roster?

This third question that needs an answer will need to include your answers for the first two questions. First, is there an answer at the quarterback position? Has the new regime signed key free agents or drafted prospects that look to be staples on this team for years to come?

Rivera has asked for fan support on multiple occasions this season. Instead, on multiple occasions, Rivera let the fans down with poor performances by his team. How many more times can he try to draw the fans back in with his words without qualifying his statements with a product worth supporting?

The positive thing about this exercise is knowing that you are allowed to change your answer down the road. You are not bound to the answers you have today as things change, for better or for worse.

Year three will be critical for Ron and his ability to garner fan support. Will he be on the hot seat? No, not necessarily. Owner Daniel Snyder can’t fire Rivera and hire a new coach so soon. However, the fans will have the ability to approve Rivera as a head coach, and, well, we all know the saying about insanity.

Let’s poll these questions, and see where you are at as it stands today.

Poll

Does Washington have the answer at quarterback currently on their roster?

This poll is closed

  • 14%
    Yes
    (144 votes)
  • 85%
    No
    (874 votes)
1018 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Did Rivera’s new regime win in the off-season?

This poll is closed

  • 25%
    Yes
    (251 votes)
  • 74%
    No
    (732 votes)
983 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Is Rivera’s team heading into the new season better than they were a year ago?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Yes
    (556 votes)
  • 43%
    No
    (429 votes)
985 votes total Vote Now

Let us know what you think in the comments.