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Washington’s quarterback situation descends into tragicomedy (again)

Survey results!!

NFL: Washington Commanders at Los Angeles Ram Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Commanders fans mostly won’t have to be reminded about the train of events last season. I’ll remind you anyway.

During a Week 16 game against the 49ers, the team was struggling and behind in the 2nd half. When Taylor Heinicke, who was 5-2-1 as a starter on the 2022 season, threw a 4th quarter interception, Ron Rivera benched him and brought in Carson Wentz to finish the game. Wentz, who had gone 2-4 as a starter to open the season, led Washington on a touchdown drive, and the 49ers won by 17.

The following week (Week 17), with the playoffs on the line, Ron Rivera kept Heinicke on the bench, and started Carson Wentz against the Browns. Wentz threw 3 interceptions; the offense scored 10 points, and the Commanders were eliminated from playoff contention.

For the season-ending home game against the Cowboys — which had potentially huge implications for the Cowboys’ playoff hopes (but none for Washington) — Ron Rivera decided to go back to Taylor Heinicke.

Heinicke was having none of it. Likely, he was keen to avoid any potential injury that could derail his free agency opportunities, but he told reporters that he thought Sam Howell deserved a chance, so Sam got his first start and his first win at home against the Cowboys in Week 18 of the 2022 season.

Sam Howell started the 2023 season the way he ended 2022, by winning. Under a new owner, new offensive coordinator, and new offensive scheme, Sam opened the season looking like he was improving weekly. His peak probably came in the Week 8 game against the Eagles. But by Week 11, his play seemed to be deteriorating, and by Week 15 he had regressed dramatically.

After last week’s Week 16 contest against the Jets, in which Sam was benched for the 2nd game in a row and Jacoby Brissett led a go-ahead scoring drive that culminated in a 1-point lead with less than 5 minutes left on the clock, this week seemed like a good time to ask Hogs Haven readers, via our Reacts survey, if it was time for Ron Rivera to once again swap starters in a Week 17 game.

Of those who responded to the survey, 40% said ‘yes’ to the change, but 60% said ‘no’, preferring to stick with Sam Howell.

It could end up that everyone gets their wish (sort of).

On Wednesday (before the voting in the survey was closed), Ron Rivera announced that he had decided to start Brissett, and that he would let Sam Howell “take a breath” (a phrase the head coach used repeatedly in his 8 minutes or so spent talking to the local media folks).

Two days later, on Friday, Jacoby Brissett’s name showed up on the injury report, listing a hamstring injury and a ‘questionable’ designation for Sunday’s game. The head coach confirmed that if Jacoby is unable to go against the 49ers this weekend, Sam will get the starting nod.

I mean, you can’t make this stuff up.

Ron described Brissett as having “tightness” rather than a painful injury, so I’m guessing that Jacoby still gets the start, but there have been plenty of tweets and comments to the effect that Josh Harris had a quiet word to Ron about the need to keep the #3 overall draft pick secure.

Looking at the rest of Washington’s injury report would tend to make one think that the Commanders’ draft position is getting safer all the time. Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste, Washington’s top two corners on its 31st-ranked pass defense, are out. Chris Rodriguez, the rookie running back who just logged the best game of his short career last week, has gone to IR. The offensive line is also peppered with injuries. With the 49ers having lost to the Ravens last week and still in contention of the top seeding in the NFC playoffs, this weekend could be particularly ugly.

Fan Confidence

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After hovering in the range of 50/50 for the past month or so, the confidence of Hogs Haven readers responding to the survey fell this week to just 34%. The feeling of a season gone far out of control seems to have brought a number of fans to a breaking point they had resisted for a while, and the prospect of a potential top-3 draft pick isn’t enough to keep longer-term optimism afloat.

Commanders fans from every camp, however, can join together in positive anticipation of Monday January 8th, 2024. The season officially ends with the final whistle of the game against the Cowboys at FedExField on the 7th, and the next era of Washington football should begin on the 8th. Let’s all join together in anticipation of the big day.

  • Do you hate Ron Rivera? We got you covered.
  • Waiting for the new owners to prove that they know what they’re doing? Get ready.
  • Fatigued by a season of embarrassment on the field? January 8th can’t come soon enough baby!
  • Just want to be able to do your mock drafts without those ‘other’ fans reminding you about games yet to be played? Your time has almost arrived.

We were all able to celebrate together when the sale of the team was announced last offseason. It’s a shame we’ve had to endure what’s been forced upon us in 2023, but, ‘darkest before the dawn’ and all of that.

A new day is dawning.

New broom sweeping clean.

Cleansing fire.

Pick your metaphor, but get ready for the first meaningful steps in the Josh Harris era. Let’s hope he gets them right, because we’ve all been waiting for far too long.

Let’s turn this tragedy into something better.