It’s not even the halfway point of the season and the Washington Commanders are already at a crossroads.
For the second time in three weeks the Commanders looked listless, at times unprepared, and not full of the fire and confidence a contending team should. They sandwiched two surprising trainwrecks around a decent game against Atlanta that might give one hope they have the elements for the future.
But no quicker than you can feel a ray of something positive with this group, they have then shown an immense talent for jerking the rug out from under you as if saying “fooled you again.”
Therin lies the problem.
As is the case in any troubled organizations, the blame rises to the top. Ron Rivera is not a bad coach, he’s a fine human being, and his courage and class in his fight against cancer was inspirational for many.
But there have been times in the past where he has seemed somewhat disinterested in what’s going on, and those times are becoming more frequent.
He’s like the dilemma I encountered earlier in my life in the world of sales where if you hit 100 percent of quota, they pat you on the back. Hit 80 percent of quota and they fire you. But what do you do with the guy who is seemingly content at 92 percent? He clearly has talent so you don’t want to fire him. But if he pulls the average down so the whole company doesn’t make quota, then the company is going to fire YOU.
That, to me is Ron Rivera.
It’s not that he doesn’t care. It’s just that the pace he has now grown accustomed to isn’t going to work in the turnaround new ownership saga that is the 2023 Washington Commanders. His halftime comment during the team’s abominable loss to the Chicago Bears about not talking to the team himself and letting the players talk amongst themselves was a huge red flag.
Den mothers say things like that. Head football coaches do not.
Even players are feeling it. After the game, former Stone Bridge and Alabama star Jon Allen sounded as frustrated as many fans. He at first blamed the loss on lack of focus and lack of attention to detail, but when asked if dealing with all that was frustrating, he quickly responded “F–k yes it does. I’m f–king tired of this s–t. I’m f–king tired of this bulls–t. It’s been seven f–king years of the same s–t. I’m tired of this s–t.”
He sounds like most of Commanders Twitter.
It’s a shame, because what’s been going on the last three weeks has all the potential of wasting the good will new ownership is receiving in the honeymoon stage of its acquisition. With a good young quarterback and an ownership group many believe will try to make the team a contender instead of sitting back, doing nothing, and just taking the millions in television money to upgrade their yacht anchored off the Amalfi Coast, many previously estranged fans have been drifting back.
But they won’t stay for long if every other week is a surprising defeat to clearly inferior teams. The Giants came into this game having only won one game in six tries and had a pass rush so weak they only had five sacks all season. You’d think that would create certain game-planning opportunities, but the Commanders looked like they just did what they always do and the Giants had five sacks before it was even halftime.
Even worse, if Allen feels this frustrated with a lack of focus and attention to detail, others probably do too. Successful players are used to coaches who develop games plans that put them in a position to win. Going through the motions and not providing such support can only fracture the locker room.
I don’t know what you do. I think it is time for Riverboat Ron to become Retirement Ron, but I’m not sure it does any good to make a change midseason unless you have the next head coach on your staff right now. Maybe they do in offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, but I couldn’t help but notice a lack of screens, slants, wheel routes or any type of innovation to slow the Giants pass rush today. It’s as if the Giants did work round the clock to study the weaknesses in the offensive line, and no adjustments were made by the Commanders to counter that.
Call it the fight in the dog or the fire in the belly, but like Elvis, it has left the building for Rivera. The team now finds itself in the position of either do something to get better or do nothing and get worse. If the team does nothing – and I’m not sure really what they can do – those lost sheep who returned to the fold this summer after the team was sold will revert back to finding other things to do on Sunday afternoons, and it will be like déjà vu all over again: a losing team playing each week before small crowds.
If there’s any good news in any of this, new owner Josh Harris is no rookie to owning professional sports teams. He’ll have some ideas on how to address all this.
But there’s no denying there’s an iceberg dead ahead and he’s going to have to do something.
Sooner than later.