Allegany Communications Sports­­

The good news after the Washington Commanders’ 45-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys was that those who chose not to won’t be eating turkey for another year.

The news wasn’t so good for Jack Del Rio (well, maybe it was), as he was fired by head coach Ron Rivera as the team’s defensive coordinator along with defensive backs coach Brent Vieselmeyer as the Washington defense has plummeted to the bottom of the NFL rankings after entering the season with high expectations.

The Commanders’ defense ranks worst in points allowed and 29th in yards allowed — one year after ranking seventh and third, respectively, and has allowed a league-high 49 pass plays of 20 or more yards. The Commanders haven’t intercepted a pass in the past six games or caused a turnover in the past three.

Rivera said he will take over the defensive play-calling for the rest of the season, telling the media, “If you don’t change things, can you expect things to change? So that’s what I’m doing, to see if things will change.”

Oh, things will change, Ron. Things are going to change.

When the new ownership team, led by Josh Harris, took over in the summer, it was the first major step in restoring this franchise into a playoff team, and despite the abysmal season, that new ownership group remains the prevailing breath of fresh air (compared to the rancid air of the Snyder ownership) because for the first time in a long time there is hope for the beleaguered Washington fanbase.

Things are going to change, and things will change for the better; how could they not? Yet even in the summer when everybody was on the first page of a new beginning, it was a given that the Commanders would have to produce an exceptional season for Rivera to have any chance to return as the head coach, as new ownership traditionally feels more comfortable giving the keys to the car to somebody it has selected to drive it.

As Harris said in a statement on Friday, “I knew our first season of ownership would include challenges along the way, and we will not shy away from hard work, nor will we be deterred by adversity.”

He also said, “Our fans deserve a team that can compete with the NFL’s best and win sustainably over the long-term. I will not waver from that mission.”

As Harris and his group embark further into that mission, the first order of business will be to finish the season in a strong fashion, even at the price of jeopardizing a higher standing in the draft. Based on how the season concludes, if he hasn’t already, Harris must then determine the fate of Rivera as well as general manager Martin Mayhew, as Rivera currently holds the final say on all football matters, which is interesting.

In the case of the Commanders, it would seem the next head coach would be a coach who has made his bones on the offensive side of the football, because his offense, his philosophy, his way and his personality are going to be linked to the being of the quarterback of the team, particularly if the quarterback of the team is a young quarterback with all kinds of possibilities attached to his arm, which the Commanders have in Sam Howell.

The Commanders currently stand with the same 4-8 record as the Chicago Bears; but due to strength of schedule, the Bears currently maintain the No. 4 pick in the draft, while the Commanders stand at No. 5, which, if it stays that way, would be significant, provided the right course of action has been put into place.

The Commanders’ general manager and head coach openings, should they become open, will be highly coveted; for aside from being the franchise that represents the nation’s capital in a major media market, with a fanbase that is dying to be rabid once more, the Commanders are holding a lot of attractive cards that could help them compete and win very soon.

For starters, they will have $90 million in salary cap room, possibly a top-five draft pick, three picks in the top 40, five in the top 100 and a new ownership group that has the community on its side, not to mention a new stadium on the foreseeable horizon.

On top of that, they have Howell, a young quarterback with upside, but that’s where things could get tricky, as the guy calling the shots for the Commanders at that time is going to have a long-term franchise decision to make if one of the talented quarterbacks in the draft, such as Drake Maye or D.C. native Caleb Williams, falls into his lap with that high first-round pick.

It hasn’t been much fun this season if you are a Washington Commanders fan, but be patient. All of that is about to change.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT