Allegany Communications Sports
It was the darndest of seasons, it was a really weird season for the Washington Commanders – new look (I like the new look), new team name (not crazy about the new team name), a costly new starting quarterback (starting in theory), a feisty, energetic back-up quarterback engineering a legitimate mid-season playoff run, the costly quarterback engineering a legitimate late-season flop and head coach Ron Rivera saying Tuesday in his season review press conference, “It’s not always on the win-loss record to show you’ve grown or not” months after saying at the start of training camp, “I’m here to be judged on that, okay? The judgment starts with winning or losing.”
Whew! That was a mouthful; but it was that kind of season, even with an 8-8-1 record.
So how do you judge that winning or losing and tying? For a head coach like Rivera, who has just three winning seasons in 12, yet remarkably a winning overall career record, maybe you judge it as par for the course?
It will be remembered as a disappointing season because when the Commanders found themselves at 7-5-1 and on a roll under back-up Taylor Heinicke, of whom general manager Martin Mayhew said on Tuesday, “He was instrumental in salvaging our season,” the team was as good as any other team that was fighting for an NFC wild-card berth.
But then losses to the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers sparked Rivera to believe that the $28-million, three draft picks-costly quarterback Carson Wentz could provide, well, you know, a spark. What he provided was a short circuit with an ugly Wentz performance in a 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
To make matters worse, Rivera – whether he was being sarcastic or not – admitted afterward that he had no idea the Commanders could be eliminated later in the evening if Green Bay won, which they did and is exactly what happened.
Suddenly, the optics were not so good.
The season, though, did end on a happy note when rookie quarterback Sam Howell provided that long lost spark, leading Washington to a dominant 26-6 win over the bewildered Dallas Cowboys on the day the organization finally got around to retiring Sonny Jurgensen’s jersey No. 9.
Howell made his share of rookie mistakes in his first career start, but otherwise looked crisp in putting his name in the hat for next year’s starting job, as did the Commanders secondary, which made big play after big play with tight coverage and physical hits.
Thus, any win over the hated Dallas Cowboys makes it a good day in Washington (and in Landover) and it appears the news is going to become even cheerier, because, ding-dong the witch is nearly dead, the team’s crummy little owner Dan Snyder seems to be as good as gone.
Snyder, who now seems to be a blond and new resident of England and who did not attend the Dallas game, has owned the franchise since 1999 and has reportedly been in discussions with potential buyers about selling the Commanders. In fact, he hired Bank of America to consider “possible transactions” and to process the sale of the team.
One potential new owner is multi-gazillionaire Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, who is in talks with Jay-Z on a potential joint bid on the team. Bezos said last week that if he buys the Commanders he will revert the team name back to Redskins, which could mean the much-needed new stadium would unlikely be built in the District of Columbia as district officials have long stated they will not welcome a team with that name.
Whether Snyder is really going to sell is anybody’s guess, but as things currently stand, it feels as though this is the time Washington football fans have been dreaming about since almost the moment Snyder bought the team from the Cooke estate.
How the team is run, who will run it, who will coach it and who will play for it is not likely to be determined until a sale is finalized, or at least announced. It also seems since Rivera has yet to be fired, which is still a possibility (offensive coordinator Scott Turner received his papers on Tuesday), Snyder might not be bluffing on his interest in selling so he can make even more money and completely vacate a place where, unfortunately for him, everybody knows his name.
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] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT