The Washington Commanders gave Scott Turner a two-year contract extension last March, and he is under contract through the 2024-25 season, which matches up with Head Coach Ron Rivera’s deal. He has been with the team since the 2020 season, but his offense has always received criticism for not getting the most of its players. Last year Rivera said in a radio interview that he had spoken with both of his coordinators about changes that needed to be made to improve their sides of the ball.
This season Washington brought in another new QB when they traded multiple Day 2 picks to acquire Carson Wentz. During the preseason you could see Turner trying to retrain a previously broken QB to fit into the type of system he wanted to run. The Commanders retooled their offensive line to accommodate Wentz’s salary, which the team had not asked the Colts to reduce for fear of losing out on him. The result was a disaster that saw the new QB getting run into the ground because he either couldn’t run Turner’s offense, or he had defenders crashing the pocket in 2 seconds.
When Wentz went down with an injury, he was replaced by Washington’s most reliable QB over the last few years, Taylor Heinicke. Scott Turner made changes to the offense, and also got a healthy Brian Robinson back, and the offense found its new identity by grinding it out on the ground and having long, clock-eating drives. Heinicke’s mobility was cut out of the game planning, and basically ignored as a weapon, but the Commanders went on two winning streaks that made everyone forget some of the faults. The defense started to play up to their potential, and everyone was looking towards a playoff run.
Then it all came crashing down in the month of December. Washington couldn’t beat the New York Giants in New Jersey, and had to settle for a tie. They had a bye week to rework their game plan for the Giants and try again at home in prime time. I was at that game, and it was painful to watch the offense continue to struggle and look predictable while having all the smaller issues amplified. Washington went on to lose their next two games to the San Francisco 49ers and the Cleveland Browns. Their playoff run was over, and now everyone is looking to blame someone, and there is plenty of blame to go around.
Scott Turner was asked about his job security on Wednesday at what could have been his last presser as an OC, at least for Washington:
“I mean, that’s just part of this league, you know, it could happen, it could happen to anybody. It’s happened to guys when they don’t expect it, it’s happened, you know, whatever. So I just do my job. I’m focused on the Cowboys. Whatever happens after this week, you go with it after that. But to me, I’m prepared to coach this game and then get this team ready to go be successful down the road.”
Ron Rivera was asked about Turner yesterday, and he gave a very brief answer:
“I think we’ve had our moments. I think there’s some really good things considering the availability of everybody. You know, it’s been tough.”
This morning the Washington Post published an article talking about player frustrations with the offensive play calling, something that has been brewing all season.
Nine other Commanders, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be candid about a coach, expressed frustration with the play-calling. They complained about predictability, an abandonment of the game plan against Cleveland and Turner’s tendency to deviate from plays that are working, which several players described as the coordinator “outsmarting” himself. They suggested Browns defenders had anticipated their plays during the loss, which effectively ended the Commanders’ season.
Fans have been frustrated with Turner’s play calling for a long time, and it has been frustrating to watch a team with a lot of weapons unable to score when they get into the red zone on a consistent basis. Ron Rivera will finish with a losing record for the third season in a row if Washington loses to the Dallas Cowboys tomorrow. Most coaches with that kind of middling record would be on the hot seat or already fired by now, but Washington is in a different situation than most teams at the moment. The ownership issue looms large this offseason, and until that is resolved, there likely won’t be any major changes like firing the head coach. Dan and Tanya Snyder are exploring all options for a sale of the team, but have not formally announced that they plan to sell the entire franchise. Even if Dan Snyder doesn’t decide to sell, he still has the Mary Jo White investigation hanging over his head, which will likely mean he keeps Rivera on for now as his human shield.
That doesn’t limit Ron Rivera’s ability to fire coaches, unless it was specifically limited by the current owner. When the season started, it seemed like Jack Del Rio would be a candidate for a scapegoat for Rivera’s failings as a head coach/GM, but his defense stepped up and he has been a quiet, steady hand for the team this season. Scott Turner on the other hand has not lived up to the expectations that the team and had for the offense. He was extended recently, but the team needs to make some changes if they’re not going to move on from Rivera after the season. Scott Turner sure looks like he’s going be the guy getting the ax on Black Monday.
Should Scott Turner be fired?
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What’s the point if you don’t fire Rivera?