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Rivera’s Commanders failed to “ascend” in year three after another late-season collapse; full accountability is needed

Fan support for Ron Rivera was mixed before the season. After another late-season collapse behind one of the biggest off-season failures during his tenure, it's time for Rivera to accept full accountability for falling short of his expectations for 2021.

Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Rivera acquired Carson Wentz from the Indianapolis Colts last March, expecting that Wentz would help the Washington Commanders “ascend” past the mediocrity he produced during his coaching tenure in his first two seasons. “It gets us a few steps in the right direction,” Rivera said of Wentz last April. Rivera went even further to say that his team should be ascending now that the quarterback position was solved.

“This is the year that says, ‘We’re going to ascend.’ And we should be ascending.”

Rivera trading for Wentz was terrible then, and while there were plenty of fans who wanted to love the idea behind the former number two overall pick and fought people tooth and nail against those who questioned it, the trade for Wentz is even worse now. Rivera benched Taylor Heinicke to give Wentz a second chance at redemption from his late-season collapse in 2021 with the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, he topped that performance with a three-interception day against the Cleveland Browns.

Additionally, if you ask Cleveland defenders about Wentz, linebacker Reggie Ragland essentially said Rivera starting Wentz was just as good as gifts on Christmas.

The idea of Carson Wentz, his athletic profile and arm talent, is better than actually playing Carson Wentz. Rivera, like Indianapolis, took the bait in the off-season and has to answer for one of several big off-season misses as a talent evaluator.

Accountability is everything, and following another late-season collapse in his third season, losing to the Cleveland Browns 24-10, Rivera should be as transparent as possible about why he and his coaching staff could not get the job done this season. The Commanders looked terrible Sunday in front of former Washington greats; they seemed as uninspired as you could possibly look in a big spot. “I think there’s been a number of things,” Rivera said postgame on what went wrong over the past month. “If I name them, I would just be making excuses. So, I’m just going to say that we’ve got to play better.”

In 2020, Washington clawed back from a 1-5 start to 6-7 before facing the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers in consecutive weeks amid a bad NFC East division title race between Washington and Dallas. The Commanders lost two straight and were potentially a Jalen Hurts benching away in week 17 from losing three straight to end the season.

In 2021, Washington clawed back from a 2-6 start to 6-6 before losing four straight to the Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles to eliminate any chances of making the playoffs.

Everything on the football side of the Commanders organization starts and ends with Rivera. After an 0-3-1 late-season stretch after recovering from a 1-4 start to the season, it is hard to believe that there is a lot of support for Rivera among the fan base anymore. Additionally, I’d find it hard to believe that fans will have faith in Rivera that he will find the answer at quarterback, given he has failed in his first three years.

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