clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 5 O’Clock Club: Who is the “face of the franchise” for the Washington Commanders in 2023?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club is published from time to time during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

CLICK HERE to see the full 5 o’clock club archive

Most of the time, it’s clear who the “face of the franchise” is for NFL teams. Most often it’s the starting quarterback, though that can get confusing when a player like Russell Wilson moves from the Seahawks to the Broncos or Aaron Rodgers moves from Green Bay to New York.

Other times, an owner can be the face of the franchise; after all, it’s hard for any Dallas quarterback to steal the limelight from a camera-hog like Jerry Jones.

In the absence of a strong quarterback or outspoken owner, the face of the franchise may default to the head coach. I think of guys like Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh or Kyle Shanahan in San Francisco, who may be more familiar to the fans of other teams than any of their star players.


But we are Washington fans, and it occurs to me that the team has been in a bit of an identity crisis recently. The name has changed (twice!); there has been a parade of starting quarterbacks since 2018, and the team’s punter is its longest-tenured player.

At this point, I wonder if the Commanders have a clear identity; I wonder if we agree on which Commander is the “face of the franchise”?

I doubt whether there is universal agreement on the question, and we could be facing a wild card this offseason if the Commanders end up on Hard Knocks, which seems to be a definite possibility. The show is well known for creating reality-show “stars” out of unexpected players who may have a quirky personality or a touching story, and some coaches have become reality cult heroes from time to time on the HBO series. It’s easy to imagine a charismatic player like Tress Way or an in-your-face coach with ‘colorful’ language like Eric Bieniemy making a splash in the 5-week prime time series.

Anyway, we may or may not be treated to a Hard Knocks look at the Commanders in the ‘23 training camp.

Let’s work with what we’ve got. I’ll nominate a few candidates, and then we’ll see what you think.

Chase Young

Face of the franchise isn’t always about being the most productive player or the longest-tenured — it is often about perception of NFL fans who may not know a lot about a particular team, which makes Chase Young a candidate for Commanders face-of-the-franchise in 2023.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

It may seem silly to think of a player who was not really even healthy enough to play most of last season — and a defensive player who struggled in 2021 at that! But when you come out of college with the label of “best player in the draft”, every serious football fan in the country knows your name. When you’re the first non-quarterback drafted, you usually go to a team bereft of nationally-recognized stars. Chase Young is a high-profile name that is usually the focus of network broadcast teams during Washington games, and his face and number (99) have appeared widely on advertising and promotions ever since he was drafted.

If you doubt whether Young may be the Washington Commander with the highest profile among the media and fans of the other 31 teams, just Google to see how many of them wrote (or read and commented on) articles this offseason about their favorite team trading for Chase Young.

Terry McLaurin

Of course, Commanders fans know and love Terry McLaurin, but he has a number of things going against him for ‘face of the franchise’ consideration. First of all, he was a 3rd round draft pick coming out of Ohio State, and at the time, wasn’t even considered to be the best receiver on the Buckeyes team, much less an elite NFL prospect. Secondly, some of Terry’s greatest assets are his professionalism, hard work, thoughtfulness and leadership; that’s why he has been a team captain for multiple seasons, but those aren’t strong factors in establishing a national identity.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Jess Rapfogel/Getty Images

Thirdly, in today’s world of fantasy-football driven popularity, statistical production is often the measure by which ‘average’ NFL fans value players. Terry has produced well when all things are considered; he has put up over 4,200 yards in 4 seasons while catching balls from a merry-go-round of quarterbacks. Fans of other NFL teams, however, scoff at the idea that McLaurin is elite because they focus on box scores and likely have never seen more of Terry McLaurin than the occasional play on NFL Red Zone. Of course, that could change in 2023. McLaurin, after all, went to the Pro Bowl at the end of the 2022 season, and he has certainly won the hearts and minds of Washington fans, but does he have the national profile to qualify as the guy who represents Washington football to the world?

Jonathan Allen

If Chase Young is notable for his smiling exuberance and Terry McLaurin for his hard work and dedication, Jon Allen may be known best for his professional no-nonsense approach to doing the hard work of battling in the trenches of the NFL. It is possible for an interior defensive lineman to rise to national prominence — just ask Aaron Donald — but to many NFL fans, the work of linemen on both sides of the ball is nearly invisible — partly because it’s so hard to watch and evaluate, and partly because it doesn’t count in fantasy football...except for sacks.

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Jon Allen and his fellow interior defensive tackle Daron Payne did, indeed, lead the Washington defense last season with 18 combined sacks, and Allen is a locker room leader as well. As one of many first-round picks on Washington’s front-7, and as a former Alabama player, Allen has a pretty strong national profile among serious NFL fans and is treasured by most Washington fans for the tough mentality that he brings to the defense and the entire team.

With back-to-back Pro Bowl appearances (2021 & 2022), it appears as if Allen’s national profile is on the rise.

Sam Howell

It’s hard to go past the starting quarterback in a ‘face of the franchise’ discussion. And, regardless of expectations — whether they are for brilliance or disaster — one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that the success or failure of Ron Rivera’s 4th season as the Commanders’ head coach is likely to hinge on the play of the 2nd-year quarterback.

Sam Howell may not have a very high NFL profile, but those who watch college football will know him from his years at UNC, and the fact that, had he entered the NFL draft in 2021, he likely would have been among the first QBs selected.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Howell will likely get more and more coverage as July and August give way to September and it occurs to the rest of the NFL that the Commanders really do plan to go into 2023 with the 5th round draft pick as their starting signal caller.

Tress Way

Tress Way has been with the team since 2014, which makes him the longest-tenured player on the roster. Way has been to a Pro-Bowl in both a Redskins helmet and a Commanders helmet, and he is often referred to by Washington fans as the “MVP”. Way is outgoing, funny and charismatic, and he is one of the better and most consistent players at his position in the NFL.

Washington Football Team Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

While Tress Way has a special place in the hearts of many Washington fans for his rock solid consistency during the oh-so-difficult decade that we have suffered through since the acrimonious departure of the family Shanahan, he probably doesn’t get the respect he deserves beyond the borders of Redskins-WFT-Commanders nation. However Tress Way is seen by NFL fans in general, I suspect he will be long-remembered by Washington fans as a true bright spot in a very dark time in franchise history. Still, if the Commanders end up on Hard Knocks, it seems almost inevitable that the cameras will gravitate towards the talkative special teamer with a big smile and lots of time on his hands.

Ron Rivera

Is it possible that the face of the Commanders franchise is not a player, but the head coach, Ron Rivera? Riverboat Ron was previously strongly associated with the Carolina Panthers, but after 3 seasons of Ron standing stolidly on the Washington sideline, he may be the figure that most people associate with the Commanders, and he looks good in Commanders colors.

Washington Commanders v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

The issue of being on the “hot seat” could jeopardize Ron’s potential here, but I’m not sure how many non-Commanders fans realize how tenuous his hold is on the top football spot in the nation’s capital.

Rivera has been given as much power in the organization as probably any coach in the league. He has made it his mission to re-shape the organizational culture, and he has largely remade the franchise top-to-bottom and front-to-back in his image. Under the influence of his broad responsibility and sweeping powers, the entire franchise has taken on the personality of the guy who is still perceived as new sheriff in town, even in his 4th year on the job, making Ron Rivera a very strong candidate for face of the franchise in 2023.

Josh Harris

One face that has appeared again and again over the past several months next to headlines that featured the Commanders name has been that of Josh Harris, who is the general partner of the ownership group that is about to finalize the purchase of the franchise.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Barkley Statue Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

That exposure is about to rise exponentially with approval for the sale expected in the next 4 to 7 weeks. When you spend $6 billion on a football team, people notice.

Magic Johnson

A dark-horse candidate for face of the franchise is Ervin “Magic” Johnson, who is part of the ownership group that is buying the Commanders, and probably the most public figure of the partners involved.

In addition to — and as a result of — having been an NBA superstar player, Johnson appears regularly on television and is a charismatic and popular figure. A couple of months ago, when the news broke that the Harris group bid had been accepted in principle by the Snyders, Magic Johnson appeared to quickly emerge as the public point man for the ownership group, though he has since faded into the background again. It may be that, once the sale is finalized, it will be Johnson who will take on the role of spokesman for the ownership group of the Commanders.


Who is the face of the Commanders franchise?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    Chase Young
    (48 votes)
  • 48%
    Terry McLaurin
    (451 votes)
  • 14%
    Jonathan Allen
    (138 votes)
  • 6%
    Sam Howell
    (56 votes)
  • 3%
    Tress Way
    (31 votes)
  • 11%
    Ron Rivera
    (108 votes)
  • 2%
    Josh Harris
    (23 votes)
  • 2%
    Magic Johnson
    (20 votes)
  • 4%
    Someone else
    (46 votes)
921 votes total Vote Now


If the Commanders end up on Hard Knocks, who is most likely to garner some ‘celebrity status’ from the TV audience?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    An undrafted college free agent
    (30 votes)
  • 15%
    A coach
    (88 votes)
  • 17%
    A quarterback
    (103 votes)
  • 9%
    A drafted rookie
    (56 votes)
  • 9%
    An offensive skill position player (TE, RB, WR)
    (57 votes)
  • 16%
    A defensive player
    (99 votes)
  • 0%
    An offensive lineman
    (1 vote)
  • 3%
    One of the new owners
    (22 votes)
  • 20%
    The punter, kicker or long-snapper
    (122 votes)
  • 1%
    Someone else (Strength & conditioning staff, front office, etc)
    (7 votes)
585 votes total Vote Now