Why? Because if you ever want to see an NFL championship team in Washington, DC again, the more that team loses, the better. Washington last won a Super Bowl in January 1992, during the Joe Gibbs 1.0 era. This was the team’s third championship in 10 years. It hasn’t come close to that level since.
There’s no way to erase the stench of Daniel Snyder’s ownership overnight, or even over the course of a season. It’s a credit to new owner Josh Harris for not giving in to Snyderitis and making rash football decisions.
No one would have blamed Harris if he had fired coach Ron Rivera after the Chicago Bears’ debacle on Thursday night. Rivera is in his fourth season and it’s pretty clear he’s a decent man – and a mediocre coach. He’s not Jim Zorn at all – him has coached in a Super Bowl – but he’s not Gibbs by any stretch of the imagination, either.
That’s why every “Victory Monday” makes Harris’ job a little more difficult. It’s almost certain that firing Rivera will be easy to justify at the end of the season unless The team will somehow make the playoffs, which is unlikely but not impossible in the razor-thin NFC, where Washington is currently one game away from a wild-card spot. Add to that Washington somehow getting a first-round win, and Harris could have a problem.
That’s an unlikely scenario, but it’s not the most important consideration. If you ever want to win championships in the NFL, you need to stockpile draft picks and then put them to good use. Washington currently has nine picks in the 2024 draft, added through the Chase Young and Montez Sweat trade, and the front office needs to put them to good use. The more Washington drafts in each round, the better it will be.
This brings us to the most important reason to avoid “Victory Mondays.” Who will make this selection in April?
Rivera may be remembered for a pick that is vital to the team’s future: Sam Howell. He’s not Tom Brady, the best sixth-round pick in the history of the game, but he has the potential to be a very good fifth-round pick. Most of Rivera’s other recommendations – and since Snyder’s infamous “Happy Thanksgiving” appearance at his new coach’s introduction, he has had the final say on all football decisions – have been questionable at best.
However, it would be unfair to blame Rivera for the team’s continued mediocrity. He took on the role of captain of the Titanic with the iceberg right in front of him. Like most coaches, he wanted a managerial job, and there are only 32 of them in the NFL. So he signed up, no doubt believing he could somehow escape the deadly iceberg.
He couldn’t do it. Nobody could. The false hope of making the playoffs at 7-9 in 2020 and then running in the mud the last three seasons highlights how much damage Snyder has done to a once-glamorous franchise. The Eagles and Cowboys have sprinted past Washington, while even the woeful New York Giants were a playoff team a year ago – and with a winning record.
There’s no doubt that Harris knows he needs to deep clean the Ashburn building. Team president Jason Wright was tasked with the name change that Snyder was drawn into, and he came up with “Commanders” – arguably the most nondescript and meaningless team name in sports, with the possible exception of “Wizards.” Martin Mayhew has the title of general manager but seemingly little power since all final football decisions rest with Rivera. If Harris came through the building with a giant vacuum cleaner, that would be a good start.
The next coach should be the only person who currently has authority and deserves to stay: offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
There were rumors early in the season that Bieniemy was too hard on players after arriving from Kansas City in the offseason. If that wasn’t a sign of a locker room being too soft, I don’t know what is. Funny thing, Patrick Mahomes never complained about Bieniemy being too tough. Additionally, Howell has made excellent strides for a first-year starter playing behind a mediocre (at best) offensive line. Who trains him?
The trite argument that Bieniemy didn’t call plays under Andy Reid is completely ridiculous. You know who else hasn’t made plays under Reid? Doug Pederson – who won a Super Bowl with the Eagles and turned the Jaguars around after the Urban Meyer debacle. Matt Nagy also didn’t make any plays and then took a 12-4 lead in Chicago before slipping up in large part because he didn’t have a viable NFL quarterback.
Bieniemy is more than ready to become a head coach and the transition would be easier since he has already worked with his quarterback for a year.
Harris, meanwhile, has already shown a level of patience not comparable to Snyder’s by not coming in and clearing the decks immediately after signing the paperwork. Every sensible person in Washington knew this would be a transitional season, on and off the field. There’s nothing wrong with that. But the day after the season ends, Harris has to get to work. Bieniemy should be the coach and play a role in selecting a general manager – someone who has real authority and can use his own scouting staff, because the current staff has consistently failed.
Harris should lower ticket prices as a gesture to his fans, since ticket sales have little impact on an NFL franchise’s overall revenue. While he’s at it, cut the ridiculous parking fees in half.
And then he should get to work finding the right location for a new stadium.
But first comes the rest of the season. If there’s one truth in sports, it’s that mediocrity breeds mediocrity. 7-9; 7-10; 8-8-1; 4-5. This is textbook mediocrity.
The first step in returning this team to its once lofty place came when Snyder graciously turned the team over to Harris. But he still has a long way to go, and the fewer pointless celebrations there are in Washington over the next ten weeks, the easier it will be to achieve real Victory Mondays in the future.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2023/11/07/commanders-future-draft-picks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_homepage The more the commanders lose, the better their future can be