These are confusing times for Commanders fans. Wins are bad, losses are good, quarterbacks are getting benched and assistant coaches have already been fired.
As the new year approaches, there are lots of confusing and competing scenarios being thrown around in Washington. To help ease the angst of an again-bewildered fan base, we imagine how an AI-based Commanders chatbot might answer some big questions about the future of the team.
Let’s start with the biggest news this week. Commanders head coach Ron Rivera officially announced Wednesday that the team will bench second-year passer Sam Howell to install Jacoby Brissett as starting quarterback.
Q: Why did the Commanders bench Howell? Wasn’t he supposed to be the future?
A: For months, Rivera has talked about Howell as the future of the franchise, but in reality, that was likely premature. Howell had some great moments this season but his play over the last month deteriorated to the point he was a liability on the field and was benched in each of the last two contests. In the last four games, Howell has thrown just one touchdown against five interceptions. He’s completing only 46% of his passes in that span, all Commanders losses. Further problematic for Howell is that Brissett has excelled when he’s come in for the relief role. In less than a full game of work, Brissett has completed nearly 80% of his passes and thrown three touchdowns with no interceptions.
Q: Is it fair to bench Howell? Is it all his fault?
A: Fairness is a human emotion. Chatbot only deals in facts. Howell certainly played well in spurts this season and gave fans plenty to cheer about, particularly his success on off-schedule plays. But his play in the last month appears “unfair” to the other Washington players on the field. It’s also important to note this is only Howell’s first-year as an NFL starting QB and he’s never played this many games in a season, and playing in a pass-happy system, he’s never thrown this many passes in a a season. He’s also never taken this many sacks or anywhere close to the physical pounding received behind the Commanders porous offensive line. It’s possible his body and his mind have just taken all they can. Assigning fault or blame is difficult for a computer system, but Howell certainly harbors some of it. There have also been lots of issues affecting the Commanders offense, including but not limited to: poor line play, not enough run/pass balance, questionable play calling, roster construction, receiver drops.
Q: With a 4-11 record and only two games left, is it okay to root for the Commanders to lose?
A: Yes. It might be hard for some fans to see the big picture while their team is playing on the field, but with playoff elimination coming weeks ago and only two games remaining, Washington is best served to lose out. This will give the Commanders a 4-13 final record and guarantee at least a Top 4 draft pick in a rookie class full of intriguing options.
Q: Does a higher draft pick guarantee success?
A: No. A higher pick only guarantees a higher chance of getting the top target on Washington’s draft board, or holding more value should the Commanders look to trade the pick. No matter where the pick lands, it still requires the talent evaluators to make the right selection.
Q: Who will be making the pick?
A: Currently the Commanders deploy a “coach-centric” approach, which means Ron Rivera has final say on personnel matters. The front office, led by Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney, hold plenty of influence too. But when the season ends in two weeks, most around the NFL expect sweeping changes in Washington. Josh Harris’ ownership group will be tasked with naming a new football boss, and that looms as the most important decision for the future of the franchise. The 2024 presidential election won’t be the only consequential decision in D.C. next year.
Q: What happens with Sam Howell?
A: It’s entirely possible, if not likely, the young quarterback stays on the roster. He’s under contract for two more seasons at favorable terms, and at various points this season Howell showed tremendous promise. But it’s entirely possible, if not likely, that Washington drafts a new first-round QB in the spring. Perhaps that means a quarterback competition or perhaps it means Howell is the backup. It’s too early to tell. The paradigm would certainly shift in the Commanders QB room.
Q: What about Jacoby Brissett?
A: He signed just a one-year contract with Washington. A smart, veteran passer playing good football, Brissett will be an unrestricted free agent in March and will likely have many suitors.
Q: What about the rest of the roster? The rest of the staff?
A: Typically when there is regime change in the NFL most of the building gets flipped. That means players, coaches, front office and some non-football staffers. Considering the Harris group took control of the organization in late July, just one week before training camp opened, their hands were largely tied operationally. Now, after watching a full season play out, Harris must have a much better idea of what works and certainly what doesn’t.
Q: One last question, how annoying are Cowboy fans?
A: The most annoying. In fact, our research shows most of them have never even been to Texas.
Editor’s note: Any issues with the answers should definitely be taken up with our imaginary Commanders Chatbot, not JP Finlay.