The Athletic (paywall)
Teams cannot begin interviewing coaches in person until Jan. 22. Washington could have a new general manager or front-office lead in place sooner rather than later to help or direct a head-coaching search. Whatever happens, here’s a look at 13 possible candidates based on league-wide expectations and conversations with various sources.
Spoiler: One name not on the list is Bill Belichick. If arguably the greatest coach in NFL history is available, you think about it. I don’t see Harris starting his tenure with a 71-year-old who will likely retire long before a new stadium is built. He isn’t at the forefront of the analytics movement and likely wants significant personnel control when recent results have been less than stellar. Adding Belichick might require a trade to boot.
- Ben Johnson, OC, Lions
- Dan Quinn, DC, Cowboys
- Raheem Morris, DC, Rams
- Dave Canales, OC, Buccaneers
- Lou Anarumo, DC, Bengals
- Mike Macdonald, DC, Ravens
- Brian Callahan, OC, Bengals
- Bobby Slowik, OC, Texans
- Steve Wilks, DC, 49ers
- Jim Harbaugh, HC, University of Michigan
- Mike Vrabel, HC, Titans
- Eric Bieniemy, OC, Commanders
- Thomas Brown, OC, Panthers
Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera’s Week 18 goals may not be aligned with the best long-term interests of the organization.
The problem is that it’s the worst-kept secret in the NFL that Ron Rivera won’t be employed at this time next week, leaving the two-time Coach of the Year little motivation to help engineer a loss in Week 18.
There’s the obvious: most coaches aren’t wired to go along with trying to lose. You can build a bad roster, but the coach is still going to try to make chicken salad out of it, because that’s their job. Brian Flores with the Miami Dolphins in 2019 and Lovie Smith with the Houston Texans in Week 18 a year ago are examples of this.
Beyond that, though, every coach is aware of their win/loss record, and Rivera’s is at an inflection point. He will enter Week 18 with a 102-102-1 record in 13 seasons as an NFL coach, split between the Commanders and Carolina Panthers. Rivera still may be holding out hope of eventually getting another coaching job, however unlikely that may be. What’s more likely is that the 61-year-old will be coaching the final game of his career Sunday afternoon, which, barring a tie, will determine whether he finishes with a winning or losing record.
Washington Post (paywall)
Over the past two decades, Washington has started 22 quarterbacks. Only two — Jason Campbell (2008-09) and Cousins (2015-17) — started entire consecutive seasons. Stopping that trend that was on Ron Rivera’s lengthy to-do list when he took over as coach in 2020, but his regime’s failure to find a franchise star may soon lead to his exit.
For seven of his nine seasons coaching the Panthers, [Ron Rivera] had Cam Newton, healthy and in his prime. But since he arrived in Washington, Rivera has churned through nine starters acquired via free agency, trades, the draft and even the Patriots’ practice squad (hi, Garrett Gilbert).
It would be simplistic and unrealistic to think a quarterback alone could have solved Washington’s issues the past four years. The team’s struggles have been due to myriad factors, including the deterioration of a talent-packed defense, a slew of costly personnel decisions and a history of poor player development.
But the inconsistency at quarterback has had a ripple effect. Think of the players who have had to adjust to new quarterbacks season after season, sometimes week after week.
When Washington turned to the more experienced Brissett in Weeks 15 and 16 after benching Howell midgame, he immediately connected with receivers and rallied the offense, largely because he had a keen understanding of the opposing defenses.
Terry McLaurin has yet to experience any consistency at quarterback, making his production at receiver all the more impressive. Since McLaurin entered the league in 2019, he’s played with 11 total quarterbacks and caught at least one pass from 10 of them — not including his 28-yard catch from tight end (and former quarterback) Logan Thomas on a trick play in 2020.
McLaurin (946) needs just 54 yards against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday to get 1,000 yards for the fourth consecutive season. Mclaurin, who was drafted by the team in 2019, has already cemented himself as one of the best wideouts in franchise history — he needs just seven yards to move past Hugh Taylor for eighth in all-time receiving yards — but getting another 1,000-yard season would put him in a class of his own. No Washington receiver has ever recorded four straight in the team’s 91 years of existence.
“Hey man, listen, we’re 54 yards away,” Bieniemy told McLaurin. “You got to make it happen.”
You won’t hear McLaurin boasting about accolades, especially in a losing season, but the team wants to see him do it.
“When guys have certain goals like that and certain things they can accomplish, you want to help them do that,” said quarterback **Sam Howell.** ”Terry’s...a tremendous player, but he’s an even better person. Such a great teammate, been so good to me throughout my career here.”
Regardless of who has thrown to McLaurin over the years, he’s made a habit of being reliable. He is the sixth player in NFL history to record at least 900 receiving yards in each of his first five seasons, joining D.K. Metcalf, Mike Evans, A.J. Green, Randy Moss and Jerry Rice.
[O]ver the last three games, McLaurin’s production has risen rapidly. He had six catches of 141 yards — a career high and currently his own 100-yard game of the season — and a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams. Two weeks later against the San Francisco 49ers, he grabbed a 42-yard pass from Howell and scored his fourth touchdown of the season.
From Weeks 15-17, McLaurin has 252 yards on 13 receptions — numbers that are much closer to what we have come to expect from McLaurin.
Micah Parsons’ recent comments should serve as a stark warning to the Washington Commanders offensive line ahead of their Week 18 clash
Commanders cannot take Micah Parsons’ comments lightly
Parsons sits on 13 sacks on the season. His career high is 13.5. Considering he’s only attained 1.5 quarterback takedowns in the last five games, the two-time All-Pro hinted he may look to bend the rules a little in pursuit of achieving his career-high based on comments via John Machota from The Athletic.
“I know, I know. I literally just had this conversation with the guys today. At this point, it’s any means necessary. I might jump offsides twice this week. Something has to change. Something. It’s coming. It’s coming for sure.”
- Micah Parsons via X/Twitter
Micah Parsons on being stuck on 13 sacks (he had 13.5 in 2022 and 13 in 2021): “I know, I know. I literally just had this conversation with the guys today. At this point, it’s any means necessary. I might jump offsides twice this week. Something has to change. Something. It’s… pic.twitter.com/bLvr7j2xFj— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) January 3, 2024
His recent comments should raise the sense of urgency...
McLaurin couldn’t help but be a little envious of the way San Francisco has set up an operation capable of sustained success based on comments via Clutch Points. Something the veteran Pro Bowl wide receiver hopes to experience at some stage during his professional career.
“You want to be a part of something that’s sustainable and you’re winning completely at a high level. They’ve got a great staff. They’ve got great players. You can tell they love playing together. You see why they have the success that they do. You got to give them credit for building that team and for the players going out there and executing. Hopefully I can be a part of something like that, but I’m just focused on myself, my world and my journey and I’m going to keep working to be the best player I can be.”
- Terry McLaurin via Clutch Points
[T]here’s only so much losing players with McLaurin’s capabilities can take. He’s experienced almost nothing but misery in terms of results since entering the league as a third-round selection in 2019. It’s no wonder the wideout wants to be a part of something special.
The likes of McLaurin and Jonathan Allen - two of the Commanders’ primary leaders - will be watching how things unfold closely. They don’t want to waste their prime years going through an extensive rebuild. With an abundance of draft picks and the NFL’s most available salary-cap space as it stands, there is an opportunity to speed up the process.
Trading McLaurin is out of the question unless he makes things difficult, which appears unlikely. He’s one of the most consistent pass-catchers around. He’s an alpha within the locker room. He’s an exceptional community presence - something that brought a well-deserved Walter Payton Man of the Year nomination recently.
Podcasts & videos
Locked on Commanders: Washington Commanders NFL Draft Position More or Less Important Than Beating Dallas Cowboys Week 18?
video: with @Sam4TR looking at some key games that impact the no 2 pick; Sam Howell with one more start and comparing him to the potential top QBs. Looking at the roster and where it stands. Sam Cosmi! @ESPNRichmond https://t.co/xGChPXepBU— John Keim (@john_keim) January 4, 2024
Episode 733 - Ron Rivera on Wednesday opened about his No. 1 fail w/ Washington: never figuring out QB. I discuss that, Sam Howell being back as #Commanders QB1, whether Ron might actually be looking forward to being fired, Terry McLaurin, Sam Cosmi & more.https://t.co/u0JIVX6vrL— Al Galdi (@AlGaldi) January 4, 2024
This week on @PFF_NFLSE...@ConnorJRogers & I fixed/rebuilt the Washington Commanders. We talked about new ownership background for hints at new GM/HC candidates, went through a free agent strategy (lots of $$$), and hit a 3-Rd mini mock draft— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) January 4, 2024
Tana Takes OVER! The COWBOY KILLER’S Keys to Beat Dallas! | Command Center | Washington Commanders
Check out the top photos of the Washington Commanders preparing for the Dallas Cowboys during Thursday’s practice
NFC East links
Blogging the Boys
This bodes well for the Cowboys looking up the No.2 seed in the NFC.
It’s simple for the Dallas Cowboys when it comes to locking up the No.2 seed in the NFC playoffs. A win against the Washington Commanders, and they accomplish that and win the NFC East, and the Cowboys will have two potential home games in the postseason as long as they advance.
That task may have gotten a little easier for Dallas. According to Commanders insider JP Finlay of NBC Sports, the feeling is that a lot of the veterans on the team won’t play against the Cowboys.
I get the vibe a lot of Commanders veterans wont play this weekend— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) January 4, 2024
With a 4-12 record and nothing to play for except draft position, it makes sense for the Commanders to sit their better players, especially since a loss will put them in a better draft position. The Cowboys will need to make sure they handle business, though, because laying an egg here could open the door for the Philadelphia Eagles to win the division for a second straight year by defeating the New York Giants and steal the No.2 seed. If that happens, it would make Dallas the No.5 seed and force them to travel on the road for the entirety of the playoffs unless there happens to be some major upsets.
Blogging the Boys
Cowboys at Commanders: ‘There is no appetite among the fan base or (reportedly) ownership for an upset win on Sunday’
It will be interesting to see how the Commanders look on Saturday.
BTB: Do you feel like the organization is all-in on beating Dallas Sunday, or is everything really about next year, including preserving the number 2 draft pick?
HH: There is no appetite among the fan base or (reportedly) ownership for an upset win on Sunday. This season is lost, and the only consolation prize the game might bring is the #2 pick in the draft. Even that will require help from other teams to preserve Washington’s razor-thin strength of schedule tiebreaker advantage over New England.
BTB: The current line according to DraftKings Sportsbook favors Dallas by 13 points. Is that a fair line and how do you think the game will go on Sunday?
HH: All the incentives are in place for Dallas to play hard and win. By contrast, Washington is limping toward season’s end with a depleted roster and has nothing to play for except pride. That’s usually not enough. Washington last won two months ago (November 5) in New England. In the seven games since, they have been blown out 4 times by two touchdowns or more. In two of the others, Jacoby Brissett came off the bench to spark comebacks that made for a closer final score; he probably won’t play on Sunday because of a hamstring that he pulled in practice last week. Anything can happen in NFL games, especially when the teams are division rivals. But I’d say the odds are that Dallas wins in another blowout.
NFL league links
When did the Monday after the regular season ends become a day for firing coaches?
When did Black Monday originate?
While a Chicago Tribune story used the term when referencing a day in which multiple college coaches were fired in the late 1990s, 1998 is the year when Black Monday became a noteworthy phrase for the NFL. The Associated Press, New York Post and Houston Chronicle all used Black Monday in headlines on the same day after the season ended.
Black Monday 2024
Three teams already got ahead of the Black Monday by firing their head coaches during the 2023 regular season. The Las Vegas Raiders fired McDaniels in October, the Carolina Panthers fired Frank Reich in November and the Los Angeles Chargers fired Brandon Staley in December.
There are several other coaches on the hot seat entering Week 18. With new ownership and a 4-12 record entering Week 18, Ron Rivera could be on his way out at the helm of the Washington Commanders. Over in New England, NBC Sports Boston’s Tom E. Curran reported in December that “a decision was made” in December regarding Bill Belichick’s future with the Patriots.
How many coaches were fired on Black Monday in 2023?
Matt Rhule, Frank Reich and Nathaniel Hackett were all let go from their respective teams midseason, while the Houston Texans fired Lovie Smith just hours after their season-ending victory on Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023.
Kliff Kingsbury was the lone head coach to be fired on Black Monday in 2023. The Arizona Cardinals announced that they parted ways with Kingsbury after four seasons and that general manager Steve Keim was stepping down from his position to focus on his health.
How many coaches were fired on Black Monday in 2022?
There were several coaches on the hot seat heading into Week 18 of the 2021 season, and two of them were on opposite sidelines at U.S. Bank Stadium. Matt Nagy of the Chicago Bears and Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings both wound up being fired on Monday, Jan. 10, 2022. Nagy had been with the Bears since 2018, while Zimmer had been at the helm for the Vikings since 2014.
Perhaps the biggest surprise when it came to head coaching moves following the 2021 regular season happened in Miami. The Dolphins fired Brian Flores on Black Monday after he spent three seasons in the role.
Vic Fangio was fired on a Sunday since his Denver Broncos concluded their 2021 regular season with a Saturday matchup in Kansas City. In New York, Joe Judge was gone after two seasons with the Giants, though the team waited an extra day before letting go of its head coach. David Culley lasted a few more days before the Texans fired him.
Urban Meyer and Jon Gruden did not make it through the 2021 regular season.
The absence of Jimmy Kimmel from the Jeffrey Epstein documents raises the stakes for Aaron Rodgers, and for ESPN. https://t.co/vFhcyEIrIH— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) January 4, 2024
A year ago, the Patriots changed their coaching staff to rescue the end of the Bill Belichick era. Still, dysfunction remains. Go inside the team's season-long fall to rock bottom under the greatest coach of all time. https://t.co/MyRgjXQM3T— Boston Herald (@bostonherald) January 4, 2024