Washington Times (subscription)
I saw Washington Commanders chief blunder officer Jason Wright in the elevator at FedEx Field before the game against the New York Giants, and it reminded me of one thing he said in an interview with a website called “Boardroom” at the Super Bowl in February.
“We righted the ship, and now that ship is ready to go on a championship voyage,” Wright said.
Typically, at this point in the column, I might quote the great NBA player Michael Ray Richardson, whose place in history will forever be cemented with these words: “The ship be sinking.”
But no, that doesn’t accurately describe the USS Commanders after Sunday’s embarrassing 31-19 loss to the Giants before a sold-out crowd of their fans and their opponents’ fans, some of whom presumably made the trip from the New York metropolitan area to watch a 2-6 football team that was an 8½ point underdog.
The ship be sinking? No, no, the remains of this vessel are already at the bottom of the Potomac.
This is the kind of loss that typically costs people with a coaching record of 26-34-1 in four seasons (4-7 this year, 0-4 in the NFC East) their jobs — especially if you are the new owners who paid $6 billion for this team and want people to show up for the final three home games.
But it’s a short week, with the Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys (who have beaten the Giants by a combined score of 89-17 in their two meetings this year, including 49-17 before Sunday’s game) in Dallas coming up Thursday. Firing people at this stage may just result in more debris floating under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Windy City Gridiron
The Bears lose a practice squad player to the Commanders.
On Monday, the Washington Commanders signed defensive end Jalen Harris off the Chicago Bears practice squad. Harris, the son of former Bear Sean Harris, was an undrafted free agent pickup by Chicago out of the University of Arizona, and he’s been on Chicago’s practice squad all season.
Washington had a need at the position when placing defensive end Efe Obada on injured reserve earlier today.
Harris (6’4”, 257) had five tackles, 1.5 sacks, and a forced fumble during the preseason for the Bears, and now he’ll get a chance to play with the 4-7 Commanders and head coach Ron Rivera, who was the Bears’ Defensive Quality Control coach for two of the years that Sean Harris played in Chicago.
Bullock’s Film Room (subscription)
Breaking down Sam Howell’s poor performance and what lessons he can learn from it
The important thing to note with a performance like this is to understand what mistakes were made, and what lessons can be learned from them. So with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the mistakes that he made in this game and what lessons he can learn going forward.
while Howell had three interceptions, he had a fourth throw that absolutely should have been intercepted but was dropped. It was this throw that was his worst of the game in my opinion because the decision was just terrible.
The Commanders are again attempting to hit a dagger concept on this play, with the tight end spotting up underneath to occupy any underneath coverage, McLaurin running an over route to occupy the deep safety and Dotson running the dig into the vacated space behind McLaurin. The Giants show a single deep safety at the snap, but the slot defender rotates back deep into a two-high coverage post-snap.
As Howell gets to the top of his drop, I honestly don’t know why he makes this decision. As he begins his throwing motion, the safety is on top of McLaurin’s route and has outside leverage to drive down on the throw. There’s nothing about this look that says Howell should attempt this throw. But for some reason he does and the safety drives down on it for what should have been an interception.
Fortunately for Howell, the ball bounces off the safety and falls incomplete, but while that play didn’t result in an interception, it was probably a more worrying play than any of the three interceptions he did throw. The first and third interceptions were the right decision, just poor execution while on the second interception, you could at least see what he was attempting to do with Dotson open, he just misjudged how much time he had to do it. But here, there’s no obvious explanation for what Howell was doing on this play, which I must say is a rare occasion for him this season. He’s typically been good at understanding where he should be going with the football and not forcing things, so this was very much out of character for him, but it’s certainly something he needs to correct immediately because that type of questionable decision making will lead to more trouble.
2. Sacks weren’t enough to stop Tommy DeVito.
The Commanders had one of their most successful days rushing the passer in franchise history. They took down Tommy DeVito nine times, which was the most by the team since the 2014 season. Their six in the first half was the most since 1994.
And yet, Tommy DeVito had a career day against the Commanders by going 18-of-26 for 246 and three touchdowns.
When he wasn’t under pressure, DeVito picked the Commanders’ secondary apart, and it often led to explosive plays. He had five passes go for at least 20 yards, and two of them came back-to-back on the Giants’ first scoring drive.
DeVito’s longest of the day was a 40-yard bomb to Darius Slayton, who was wide open near the left sideline and finished the play in the end zone. The same thing happened on the opening play of the fourth quarter with Daniel Bellinger, although the Commanders managed to get him out of bounds for a 26-yard gain. They scored three plays later.
DeVito had just 86 yards in last week’s loss to the Cowboys. He easily surpassed that number in the first quarter. So, while the sacks were great, they didn’t mean much with DeVito facing little resistance in the secondary.
Change starts at the top...
- Commanders could hire Adam Peters -Assistant General Manager | San Francisco 49ers
The NFL is a copycat league. Struggling teams are always looking for ways to follow the blueprint of those more successful franchises around the league, which might be something for the Washington Commanders to consider if the right opportunity presents itself.
There aren’t many better at roster construction than the San Francisco 49ers. Aside from the trade-up for quarterback Trey Lance that blew up in their face, almost every move made in recent years has been a home run - something that’s put Kyle Shanahan’s squad among the leading Super Bowl challengers once again in 2023.
Whether the Niners reach the promised land or not, Adam Peters’ name is likely to come up in discussions for any team looking for a new general manager. He’s got a strong background in college scouting and has no doubt learned a great deal about what it takes to succeed in the top job from John Lynch, who’s always got him close by.
This makes a ton of sense. As previously mentioned, people like Peters should now be jumping at the chance awaiting them in Washington with Josh Harris’ ownership group leading the charge.
Bringing the Niners’ aggressive approach to the Commanders would be a breath of fresh air. There is also enough draft capital and spare financial resources to hit the ground running in this scenario.
After Sunday’s game, McLaurin reflected on the loss and the bigger picture.
“Yeah, everybody wants to win at the end of the day,” McLaurin said. “Everybody knows how extremely competitive I am, as a leader, as a player. I am not the type to point the fingers, but at the same time, each guy has to figure out how he can affect this team in a positive way to help us win. If you are not, then this is probably not the place for you. But at the same time, I am going to continue to work and be ready for my opportunity; sometimes, I don’t necessarily know they’re going to come. I just try to stay ready and be positive and try to be part of the solution.”
McLaurin was frustrated but, as always, showed composure and said all of the right things. If anyone should be frustrated, it is McLaurin. He’s not receiving nearly enough opportunities to help the offense. Some of that is on Howell, some is on offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and McLaurin would tell you, some is on him.
Podcasts & videos
BMitch & Finlay: Do you still trust Josh Harris group to turn Commanders around?
️The "Now what" episode— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) November 21, 2023
* @AlGaldi on 4-7, Ron Rivera, Sam Howell, prior moves that accelerated the struggles
* @RickDocWalker on how Commanders become contenders, "interim coach" talk
* Me on injuries; pass coverage questions beyond personnelhttps://t.co/8cIHXv2txD
Player superstitions, Dallas prep, and Thanksgiving traditions | Get Loud | Washington Commanders
Washington Commanders Review Following Loss to the New York Giants | Self-Inflicted Wounds Doom WK11
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders’ Week 11 matchup with the New York Giants. (Photos by Emilee Fails and Kourtney Carroll/Washington Commanders)
NFL league links
Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders
Week 11 result: Lost 31-19 to Giants
I’m not sure there’s been a more ignominious two-game sweep by any team in NFL history. The Giants have now beaten the Commanders twice this season, outscoring them by 9.5 points per game. Against the rest of the league, the Giants are 1-8 and have been outscored by more than 16 points on average. Their starting quarterback on Sunday, Tommy DeVito, was averaging fewer than 5.0 yards per pass attempt and an anemic 1.8 adjusted net yards per pass across his first three pro appearances.
The one weakness on paper for the Commanders after trading away Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the trade deadline might have been their pass rush. They had produced just one sack on 92 dropbacks by opposing quarterbacks after the trade, suggesting the defense might be compromised without its two top edge rushers.
Well, the pass rush wasn’t the problem Sunday. The Commanders sacked DeVito nine times on 35 dropbacks, good for a sack rate of 25.7%. There’s an element of chicken-versus-the-egg here in terms of causation, but when defenses are able to create that sort of disruption, it almost always results in a victory. Since the turn of the century, teams that sacked the quarterback nine or more times had gone 43-1.
That’s now 43-2, and Washington wasn’t really even very close. It turned the ball over six times, went down midway through the first quarter and never took a lead against a team that had trailed at least once in every single prior game this season. When DeVito wasn’t being sacked, he went 18-of-26 for 246 yards with three touchdowns. Saquon Barkley turned 19 touches into 140 yards from scrimmage and two scores. Reserve linebacker Isaiah Simmons tacked on a pick-six when the Commanders finally got within one score in the fourth quarter.
It’s no secret around the league that many people expect this to be Ron Rivera’s final season in Washington. Rivera, appointed in 2020, was the last head-coaching hire of the Daniel Snyder era, a safe pair of hands given football control at a moment when the franchise needed on-field stability amid off-field turmoil. New owners almost always hire a coach of their own choosing after taking over. The past six new NFL ownership groups to take over teams after sales all moved on from the coach they inherited within two seasons. One of those fired coaches was Rivera, who was fired by the Panthers in 2019 after coaching 28 games under team owner David Tepper.
Rivera is a well-respected coach and hasn’t always been given the best hand in Washington, but Sunday reinforced two key failings that will come to define his time in the nation’s capital. One is under center. The Commanders have continued to cycle through quarterbacks with little success.
This feels like a lame-duck November and December for the Commanders, who will have brighter days ahead with better ownership. Barring a dramatic turnaround from Howell over the final few weeks of 2023, it would be a surprise if Rivera returns in 2024.
The Athletic (paywall)
Over the final seven weeks, owners and team presidents of struggling teams will assess their situations while monitoring the work of the top offensive and defensive coordinators, as well as a few college head coaches. If those teams decide to make a change, they will then form lists of desired candidates to interview.
This year’s crop of head coaching talent is expected to feature a number of familiar names. Some, like Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores, have prior head coaching experience. Others, like the Detroit Lions’ Ben Johnson and Aaron Glenn, are looking to turn impressive bodies of work as coordinators into promotions.
Here’s a rundown of the top potential candidates on teams’ radars, listed in alphabetical order.
Lou Anarumo, defensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
The 57-year-old Anarumo directs a defense that was among the league’s stingiest in points allowed in 2021 and 2022, and he is one of the few defensive minds who knows how to beat the Kansas City Chiefs.
Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator, Washington Commanders
Bieniemy left Andy Reid and the Chiefs, who all touted him as a future head coach, to prove he could run his own offense. Now with the Commanders, he turned second-year pro Sam Howell into the NFL’s passing yardage leader at the season’s midpoint. Howell did deliver a stinker Sunday, throwing three interceptions, and the Commanders’ seesaw season of disappointment under Rivera continued. However, front-office members around the league still hold Bieniemy in high regard as an offensive mind and leader.