After the bye week? Or after the season?
The more pertinent question: does it really matter?
This Commander season became a foregone conclusion earlier than usual. Perhaps we should be grateful that there’s no teasing about what’s possible. It’s still a shame that Thanksgiving isn’t even here and that the most important person in the building is not the one who coaches the team but the one who will be next. Eric Bieniemy? Ben Johnson? Bill … Belichick?
Anyone. We have time for this.
Ready to discover the details that brought us here, before the holidays are even in full swing? The Commanders lost to the New York Giants on Sunday in a virtually unwatchable 31-19 debacle in which Washington turned the ball over. six times. The last of them: an embarrassing interception of Sam Howell by New York linebacker Isaiah Simmons, who mocked the home team by falling backwards at the goal line to complete his 54-yard score.
Why wouldn’t he? The Giants are 2-0 against the Commanders. They are 1-8 against the rest of the NFL.
Under the old ownership regime, this is where you would associate the putrid result on the pitch with the fact that none of the changing rooms had hot water so that the players could shower comfortably afterwards. Then we joked about how the stench of game followed the commanders until they returned. (Insert rimshot here.)
This is a new era, however, with the relentless beating of Daniel Snyder replaced by the the optimism of Josh Harris. Jokes are not meant to apply. Yet here we are.
Put the showers aside. Focus on results. How can this happen in the fourth year of a program that Rivera keeps claiming is showing growth?
“Whatever my answer is, it will be made public and people will say it’s an excuse,” Rivera said. “So we’re just going to take responsibility and show up tomorrow and get ready.”
Ready to… tidy up the office? Or the 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 didn’t know he could find wide-open receivers roaming huge swaths of the field, with members of Washington’s so-called secondary nowhere to be found. DeVito, an undrafted rookie, is the Giants’ third-string quarterback. On Sunday, he took nine sacks – and still stood there to throw for 246 yards with three touchdowns and no picks.
This isn’t just the kind of thing that happens to commanders, the Washington Football Team, or team names banned over time. This is what happened to by Rivera teams, in particular. So whether Harris acts this week or the day after the season, he will act. He must act. It’s obvious.
“It’s a low point, that’s for sure,” Rivera said. “Any time you have an opportunity to win a football game and you put up the numbers that you did, you have to go out there.”
At this point, it’s filler. At this point, there really are no answers. Rivera knows it. Reflecting on his own future – as inevitable as it may seem – Rivera seemed dejected Friday as answer questions from The Post’s Nicki Jhabvala.
“S—, I’ve been through enough,” he said — and he’s not wrong, with his cancer diagnosis during his freshman season and then with the constant tumult as the NFL investigated and essentially suspended Snyder, leaving Rivera to answer. questions he didn’t have to face.
“The last three and a half years have not been easy,” Rivera continued. “Anyone who thinks this was easy, to hell with it. And I’m going to be honest with you, because that’s how I’ve felt for the last three years. That makes a lot. We have done a lot of things.
Point granted, that’s a lot. Let’s discuss everything they’ve done. Not just in team building, but also in coaching. Listen to Jonathan Allen, the seventh-year defensive tackle who had 1.5 sacks against the Giants. What needs to happen to get results like Sunday’s in the other direction?
“I would say learn to win,” Allen said. “When you look at the teams in the league that are consistently successful, they know how to win different types of games. To win lousy, to win offensive and defensive games, special teams. And so for us, we just have to learn how to win in different ways.
Allen doesn’t want to point fingers at the coaching staff, but his words are telling. At this point, Rivera should have taught these different ways to win. His tenure is too far along, and he plays too important a role in both player selection and training, to say otherwise. He knows precisely what is at stake.
“If I stay, I stay,” Rivera said Friday. “So until then, I’m going to continue working. I know what my goals are. I know what my vision is. But I’m not going to shake and waver about Sam, about this attack, or about 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 Commanders may have something in Howell, the 2022 fifth-round selection whose trajectory this season is better than indicate Sunday’s three interceptions. .
The culture part may be correct. The problem is that Rivera chose Dwayne Haskins, then Ryan Fitzpatrick, then Carson Wentz at quarterback before landing on Howell. If he solved Washington’s built-in quarterback carousel, he didn’t do so until he expanded it.
So, the logistics: Part of the problem with Rivera’s firing this week has to do with how quickly the next challenge presents itself to the team. Part of it has to do with the lack of a logical successor. Jack Del Rio’s defensive coordinator performance was arguably worse than Rivera’s. Bieniemy, the offensive coordinator, is during his first year he called plays, and in a way, the final six games of the season are about assessing the importance of a Bieniemy-Howell duo going forward. There is no obvious direction to turn.
But the timing doesn’t matter much. What matters: making the right choice in the future.
Think of it this way: A generation of Washington football fans has endured losses like Sunday’s, the kind that feel like new lows. At this point, they fell under Snyder, which added a layer of helplessness and despair to it all.
Sunday’s loss came under Harris. Just 11 games into his tenure, he needs to be given the benefit of the doubt to make the right decision. Eventually – next week, next month or in January – this will result in Rivera being fired. The amount of optimism fans will feel about Harris’ leadership can be heightened if he makes an inspired and exciting choice for the next coach. It’s just a shame that it’s not even Thanksgiving, and whoever is next already matters more than whoever is here.