After the farewell week? Or after the season?
A more substantive question: does it really matter?
This season of Commanders became a foregone conclusion earlier than usual. Maybe we should be grateful that there are no jokes about what is possible. Still, it’s a shame that there’s no Thanksgiving at all, and the most important person in the building isn’t whoever coaches the team, but whoever comes next. Eric Bujemy? Ben Johnson? Bill … Belichick?
Anyone. We have time for this.
Ready for the details that brought us here before the holidays even get into full swing? The Commanders lost to the New York Giants on Sunday in a largely unwatchable 31-19 defeat in which Washington turned the ball over six times. The latest: Sam Howell’s embarrassing interception by New York linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who mocked the home team by falling backwards across the goal line and completing his 54-yard drive.
Why shouldn’t he? The Giants are 2-0 against the Commanders. They are 1-8 against the rest of the NFL.
Ron Rivera says he’s focused on QB development, not his future
Under the old ownership regime here, we would have linked the disastrous result on the pitch to the fact that there was no hot water in any of the locker rooms for players to comfortably shower after the match. Then we joked that the stench of the game had reached the commanders’ house. (Insert rimshot here.)
However, this is a new era in which Daniel Snyder’s ruthless beating has been replaced by Josh Harris’s optimism. Jokes shouldn’t apply. And yet here we are.
Put showers aside. Focus on results. How can this be happening in the fourth year of a program that Rivera says is showing growth?
“No matter what my answer is, it will come out and people will say it’s an excuse,” Rivera said. “So we’re just going to take responsibility, show up tomorrow and get ready.”
Ready to… pack up the office? Or a flight to Dallas?
The quarterback who beat the Commanders: Tommy DeVito, who I remember as being great in “Taxi” and even better in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” I had no idea he could find wide-open receivers wandering across vast stretches of turf, members of Washington’s supposed secondary that was nowhere to be found. DeVito, an undrafted rookie, is the Giants’ third-string quarterback. He had nine sacks on Sunday and was still there to throw for 246 yards with three touchdowns and no picks.
This isn’t something that happens over time to commanders, the Washington football team, or the names of exiled teams. This is what happened Rivera especially teams. So whether Harris takes action this week or the day after the season, he will act. It has to work. This is obvious.
“This is definitely the worst moment,” Rivera said. “Anytime you have an opportunity to win a football game and you put up the numbers you put up, you have to do it.”
It’s filler at this point. There’s really no answer at this point. Rivera knows this. Contemplating his future — as inevitable as it seems — Rivera looked beaten on Friday while answering questions from The Post’s Nicki Jhabvala.
“S—, I’ve been through enough,” he said – and he’s not wrong, considering the cancer diagnosis during his freshman season and then the ongoing turmoil as the NFL investigated and essentially suspended Snyder, leaving Rivera to answer questions he didn’t he was dealing with.
“The last three and a half years have not been easy,” Rivera continued. “Anyone who thinks it was easy, go to hell with them. And I’ll be honest with you, because that’s how I feel about the last three years. It’s been a long time. We did a lot.”
I admit it was a lot. Let’s talk about how much they did. Not only in building the squad, but also in coaching. Listen to Jonathan Allen, a seventh-year linebacker who had 1.5 sacks against the Giants. What needs to happen for results like Sunday’s to be reversed?
“I would say I’m learning how to win,” Allen said. “When you look at teams across the league that are consistently successful, they know how to win different types of games. To win ugly to win games offensively and defensively, special teams. So we just have to learn to win in different ways.
Allen wouldn’t point to the coaching staff, but his words speak volumes. At this point, Rivera should have learned different ways to win. His tenure has been too long, and he plays too large a role in both selecting players and training them, to say otherwise. He knows exactly what is at stake.
Like Brian Robinson Jr. he thrived as a receiver in Eric Bujemy’s offense
“If I stay, I stay,” Rivera said Friday. “So until then, I’ll just keep working. I know what my goals are. I know what my vision is. But I’m not going to shake and waver about Sam, this offense, or what we’re doing.”
The message he wants to convey is that the culture in the building is better than when he arrived and that the leadership may have something in Howell, a 2022 fifth-round selection whose trajectory this season is better than Sunday’s indication performance with three interceptions.
The culture part may be correct. The problem is that Rivera chose Dwayne Haskins as quarterbacks, then Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz before landing on Howell. If he disbanded Washington’s built-in quarterback carousel, he did so only after it was extended.
So, logistics: Part of the problem with Rivera being fired this week has to do with how quickly the team faces another challenge. Part of it has to do with the lack of a logical successor. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio’s performance was arguably worse than Rivera’s. Bniemy, the offensive coordinator, is just getting started, and in some ways, the last six games of the season are intended to gauge how important the Bujemy-Howell pairing could be to the future. There is no obvious place to turn.
However, the date does not matter much. Which means: making the right choice in the future.
Think of it this way: A generation of Washington football fans have endured losses like Sunday’s that feel like new lows. Up to this point they had deferred to Snyder, which added a layer of helplessness and hopelessness to it all.
Sunday’s loss went to Harris. After playing just 11 games in his tenure, he needs to gain the confidence to make the right decision. Ultimately – either next week, next month or January – Rivera will be fired. The degree of optimism fans will feel under Harris’ leadership may increase if he makes an inspiring and exciting choice as their next coach. Too bad it’s not even Thanksgiving and who’s next matters more than who’s here.