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After 3 straight losses, Commanders fans want to see Ron Rivera gone and Carson Wentz on the bench

Poll Results!!

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Washington Commanders Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing they taught me on my first day of sports blogging school was: don’t bury the lead. So here it is:

In this week’s Reacts survey, 56% of Hogs Haven readers said that they don’t want to see head coach Ron Rivera return to Washington next season.

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That’s a big number of fans who seem to have lost faith in the head coach, especially when it’s compared to the fact that only 13% of respondents said they want him to return. Almost a third of those surveyed haven’t quite made up their minds, self-identifying as being in “wait and see” mode with regards to the head coach of the 1-3 Commanders.

This isn’t just some small sample size dissatisfaction from a group of negative Nancies on a website that hates the team; has odds posted for...well, just about everything...but in particular, the first head coach to be fired in 2023. Ron Rivera sits 5th on the list.

This indicates that bettors around the nation perceive him to be failing at his job, under scrutiny and under pressure.

The tenor of the questions that Rivera has faced from the Washington sports media in recent days has shifted from inquiries about the tendencies and players of upcoming opponents, to the changes that the Commanders need to make if the losses continue to pile up.

The question: When the little things continue to mount up like that, do you get to a point where you have to consider bigger changes?

Ron Rivera: Yeah, you do; it’s something that we have to address if it gets to that point, and we’re getting close.

The question: [JP Finlay] asked could there could be bigger changes looming if you guys don’t get things going here, and you said ‘could be’...what in your mind does that mean?

Ron Rivera: In my mind, it’s: ‘We’ll see’. I mean, we’ve got time.

If the results of our survey are any indication, fans seem to think differently; the alarm is ringing; time has run out.

Ron Rivera opened his tenure in Washington speaking boldly of Super Bowls and of not having the patience for a “5-year plan”. He did everything possible in his very first address to Washington fans to set their expectations to a very high level for his tenure. But even without his intentional inflation of expectations back in January 2020, conventional wisdom holds that Year 3 of a coach’s tenure is when he is expected to show who he is and who his team is. By the 3rd season with a team, a GM/HC combo (and Ron is really the entire package in a single person) has had the time needed to build the roster they want to have, instill the culture they believe is important, and train the players how they want the game to be played.

With nearly a quarter of Ron’s 3rd season in the record books, things look pretty grim on the field. There are a lot of ways to summarize on-field performance, but I found this quantitative graphic to be pretty informative:

You’ll see the two teams that have had, arguably, the most success in the NFL so far in the upper right corner of this graph. That is what success looks like in this metric of NFL efficiency.

The Commanders are on the other side of that graph, lumped together with the Texans and Colts. The fact that Sean McVay’s Rams show up in the same group should send up some warning flares in Agoura Hills.

It seems telling that, late in the week, Washington’s head coach is being asked about the big changes needed, while his coordinators are being asked about recent losses instead of the next opponent. Scott Turner spent Thursday’s media session fielding questions about the predictability of his offense, while Jack Del Rio was asked about the poor pass rush, inability to stop the big play, and the penalties called against his defense.

Reader comment:

Turner is scheming to one of the offense’s weaknesses. If the OL has issues, wouldn’t a mastermind stop scheming plays that require them to be a strength? It isn’t only about scheme on paper or what you see on the All-22. Every team has deficiencies. Great coordinators and coaches figure out how to play to their team’s strengths while masking their weaknesses. Unfortunately, our OL is bad and our QB has poor pocket awareness and our OC is putting them both in position to fail. It’s very fair to say they are all culpable, including RR who constructed the roster.

Carson Wentz

Fans also seem to be losing patience with starting quarterback Carson Wentz. While only a small number of fans (14%) in this week’s survey want to see him benched immediately, not many seem to have strong confidence in him either. Only 17% of Hogs Haven readers who responded to this week’s survey believe that Wentz should finish this season as the starter or that he will figure it out eventually.

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About a quarter of fans (28%) want to give him some more time, but are ready to see him benched if things don’t improve. However, Commanders fans are also aware that Washington will send a 3rd round draft pick to Indianapolis this year unless Carson plays at least 70% of the offensive snaps this season, in which case Washington has to send a 2nd round pick, and 41% of this week’s respondent’s want to see Carson sat down to save that 2nd round pick if his performance doesn’t improve.

It’s clear that the issues with the Commanders offense go far beyond Carson Wentz. The problems really begin with a poorly performing offensive line that has seen almost a complete turnover between the tackles compared to the 2021 roster. Last year’s RG Brandon Scherff is in Jacksonville, LG Ereck Flowers was cut for salary cap reasons, and injuries have forced the Commanders to play 3 different centers in 4 games (with Tyler Larsen possibly becoming the 4th different Center if he’s active this week against the Titans).

Mark Tyler:

I charted EVERY play (and it’s all on Twitter) and on average, he released the ball in about 2.3sec. There were two plays, where he had to scramble for his life, where he went over 3sec (that was it).

Now, take a look at who leads the league in Blown Blocks (also on Twitter from me), by a WIDE margin (yes - Sam Cosmi...the guy PFF has rated as our top offensive player two weeks in a ROW!)

This offensive line is complete shi!. Couple that with the fact that we played the 2 of the best defenses in the NFL back-to-back weeks, and I’ll ask you to find me a QB who can make plays in the face of that INTENSE pressure or show “pocket presence” when 85% of the time there WAS no pocket. Top this off with this being Wentz’s first year in this offense (he previously ran a West Coast offense in both Philly and INDY...a similar one in fact), and him getting used to brand new play-makers, three Centers and a TE’s who we all can see is not yet back from his knee injury.

It’s very easy to pin blame on Wentz (seeing the national media narrative and all...), but sometimes you need to go to the root of the problem - which is Ron’s failure to surround him with a competent O-line to help him stay clean in what you call a pocket.

Playing behind a porous offensive line, the relatively immobile Carson Wentz has become the most-sacked quarterback in the league. It’s been enough to get some people to conclude that the mobile and elusive Taylor Heinicke would actually be more successful right now because he seems to have an instinct for avoiding pressure and a knack of avoiding negative plays.

Reader comment:

Last year we played a first place schedule and were 7-10 with a backup QB and less weapons. The OL was pretty much the same, average to below average. Wentz is just Wentz, not very mobile, and wilts under pressure, and has terrible pocket awareness. Yeah he can throw a mile, but his accuracy is below average, high and wide. All of this is on the coaches as their ability to evaluate talent is the root cause for this dysfunction.

There are even calls for the team to turn to rookie Sam Howell, though, personally, I think the last thing a team should do is stick a rookie behind poor protection in the hopes that he might prove to be better than the current starter. The young QB might improve the offensive results, but he likely won’t be learning how to play the position properly in the NFL; he’ll just be scrambling for his life. If Howell is going to take over for Wentz, I’d prefer to see it happen next year, when Wentz’s $27m cap hit coming off the books can be used to bolster the offensive line with a few talented veterans.

Upcoming games: the Titans and the Bears

At the start of the season, Commanders fans looked at the opening two weeks against the Jaguars and Lions — the NFL’s two worst teams in 2021 — and saw an opportunity for a quick start to the ‘22 season (while their fans likely thought the same about facing Washington). That didn’t quite work out, with the Commanders going 1-1 to open the season.

In Weeks 4 & 5, Washington faces two teams that have been struggling this season, and it’s possible to see these next two games, which will be played in 5 day span (Sunday & Thursday) as offering an opportunity to quickly get the season back on track.

Reader comment:

These next two games are about as easy as it gets this season until a stretch against the Texans, Falcons and Giants starting in late November. If we’re 1-5 after the Titans and Bears games, I’ll be ready to give up on the season. Although fans love the “fire everyone and burn the ships” rhetoric, the wise move is to stick with Wentz at least through the next two games.

We asked in our survey what fans thought the Commanders record would be after these two upcoming games as the team enters the “mini-bye” that follows a Thursday night game. Not many respondents are expecting the burgundy & gold to go 2-0.

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More than half of the Hogs Haven readers who answered the question expect the team to split the next two games, going 1-1 to reach an overall record of 2-4. The pessimists outweigh the optimists here by almost 2 to 1, with 32% of fans predicting another two losses, but only 17% predicting a pair of wins to get back to .500 overall.

The prevailing sentiment seems to be that the tougher game will be against the Titans on Sunday, with expectations that the Commanders can get a win on their road trip to Chicago.

Reader comment:

We always beat the Bears.. when we do Turner will be a “Genius” again,RR will have earned his 5th year and we’ll be what? 2-4 ?

Week 5 vs. the Titans

The Titans are on a 2-game winning streak, but they’ve had issues this season, and, like Washington, could be without several key players this weekend. Some players, including linebackers Zach Cunningham, Bud Dupree, Joe Jones, and Ola Adeniyi have missed practice time this week. Rookie wide receiver Treylon Burks is also likely to miss this week’s game with the Commanders.

Offensively, the Titans are ranked 29th in yards gained and 22nd in points, while defensively, they are 26th in both yards and points, so, not exactly a statistical powerhouse on either side of the ball. If the Commanders coaching staff and players can get things figured out this week, the AFC South Titans could be vulnerable in the 1pm game at FedEx Field. Unlike the last home game where Philly fans filled the stands with ugly green jerseys and forced the home team offense to use silent counts for the snap of the ball, Titans fans should not be dominating the Commanders stadium.

Draft Kings has the point spread at 1.5 points, with the visiting Titans favored to win. Given the horrible football we’ve seen from Ron Rivera’s team for most of the past three weeks, nothing else would be reasonable, but this is not a powerhouse AFC team that should blow us out by halftime; there are reasons to look forward to a competitive game and hope for a win. One of those reasons will be hoped-for reinforcements in the form of C Tyler Larsen and rookie running back Brian Robinson, both of whom should help enhance the running game, which could help the offense overall — especially against a team like the Titans that also likes to play ball-control offense.

Week 6 at the Bears

It seems fair to say that the expectations for the game against the Bears are much higher. Outside of the Texans, the former Monsters of the Midway may be playing the worst football in the NFL right now despite their 2-2 record. I realize how hard that must be for Commanders fans to imagine after what we’ve witnessed recently, but the Bears really have been dreadful.


If we lose to the Bears, Rivera’s seat should burst into flames.

I am crunching the numbers for a Commanders health check article. To this point in the season, Heinicke was a MUCH better QB than our current starter, and that was with Cam Sims as his WR2. The OL has essentially fallen off a cliff. About the only area where we have improved is 3rd down defense.

What we are witnessing is coaching and FO malpractice.

It’s kind of hard to imagine what the schedule makers were thinking when they slated this Commanders-Bears game for Thursday Night Football — though it will have to be a terrible game, indeed, to be worse than the 12-9 overtime snoozer that saw the Colts “overcome” the Russell Wilson-led Broncos at Mile HIgh.

Getting back to the Bears...

Defensively, the Bears are 21st in yards surrendered but 11th in points given up; on offense, they are 31st in both yards and points and Justin Fields looks increasingly like a terrible draft decision.

The 2nd year quarterback has thrown for just 471 yards in 4 starts (Wentz threw for about 650 yards in the first 2 games). Fields has 2 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, and has fumbled the ball 4 times, losing one of them. He has also completed over 50% of his passes in just one game this season, and has a passer rating of just 58.7.

The Bears have amazingly been able to put together a 2-2 record, despite scoring 13 fewer points than they’ve given up. Chicago picked up victories against the 49ers during a Week 1 monsoon, and against the 0-3-1 Houston Texans in Week 3. Their “even” week games (2 & 4) were both losses — to the 3-1 Packers and the 3-1 Giants.

The Bears travel to Minnesota this week to face a 3-1 Vikings team, so it’s not getting any easier for them in Week 5. Commanders fans who haven’t already begun to hope for the best draft position possible in 2023 will be hoping that the “even week” pattern holds, and that the Commanders pick up a much-needed victory in prime time — hopefully dominating the game and easing some of the embarrassment that has been building of late.


Still, confidence is not high in the direction of the Washington Commanders franchise.

Confidence that bottomed out at 7% a week ago has leveled off, and stands at 10% in this week’s poll. While Commanders fans were the least confident in the league last week, this week, two fan bases polled with lower numbers. Colts fans were at 6% while Panthers fans were at just 4%. It's hard to guess whether the confidence of Colts fans will rise or fall after their victory over the Broncos on Thursday Night Football.

The NFC East

This contrasts pretty dramatically with our NFC East rivals. The Cowboys, Giants and Eagles fans stand at 85%, 98%, and 99% confidence levels, respectively. And who can blame them?

The only loss that one of those teams has suffered outside the division is the Cowboys opening week loss to the Buccaneers.

In fact, the NFC East has more non-divisional wins than any other division in football through the first 4 weeks. With every division having played either 2 or 3 intra-divisional games, it’s possible to compare win rates between divisions without getting very fancy.

The three divisions in the AFC that have only two intra-divisional games so far have each played one more game than the other 5 divisions, but the NFC East has the highest number of non-division victories in the league at 8. The AFC East is in 2nd place with 7, but AFC East teams have, collectively, played one more game than have the NFC East teams. Even Washington, which has only one win on the season, got that win outside the division, while 2 of the Commanders’ 3 losses have been to teams in the NFCE.

At least at this early point in the season, the NFC BEast seems to be back.

The Snyder effect

It’s frustrating, but fan confidence in Washington can never be fully divorced from the nightmare owner we have been saddled with since 1999. This week, Dan Snyder’s lawyers fired off an aggressive letter to the Congressional Oversight Committee that has been investigating workplace practices under Snyder’s “leadership”. At about the same time, the team has hired a new Chief Communications Officer with a history of crisis management.

In evaluating whether to have confidence in the direction of the franchise, Washington fans have to do a complex calculation that goes beyond the players, coaches and GM, and includes the idiot at the top of the organization chart and his co-CEO wife. This part of the calculus often tips the scales away from confidence and into dreary pessimism.

Reader comment

The biggest hope we have is the investigation into Snyder forces a sale... until then it’s going to be tough because you want to replace Ron, but who is coming here? Who wants to deal with the disfunction? New owner, new GM, GM hires coach, coach hires coordinators. Always be known for winning in the trenches, the rest can be fixed. The simple fact of football is if my OL pushes your DL off the ball, I’ll be able to do what I want to do; if my DL penetrates your OL consistently, I’ll stop you from doing what you want to do... Football has always been about the trenches, all the skill players and big number guys are great, don’t get me wrong, Mahomes is awesome, but stick him behind our OL and your lucky to be 9-7 by years end if he’s still healthy.

Week 5 predictions

Reacts surveys don’t just happen on the blog itself. Anyone who has signed up will receive weekly emails with questions of national interest. One of those questions every week asks respondents to pick the winners of this week’s games.

Here’s what SB Nation readers across the NFL have to say about who’s winning this week. They’ve already got the TNF prediction wrong.

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