The Washington Commanders are still cooking up the Dan Synder-era mess

The Washington Commanders are still cooking up the Dan Synder-era mess

Josh Harris’ first season of Washington Commanders ownership must feel like Calvin working the WacArnold’s night shift. It seems like a distinguished opportunity at first to own a legacy franchise. Until you start contrasting them against the league’s most respected franchises. Being congratulated on the team he owns must have had a nice ring to it until he discovered the mess left behind by Dan Snyder has left Washington in the fast-food tier of franchises.

Meanwhile, Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys are stuffing their bellies in the NFL equivalent of Gordon Ramsey’s kitchen. Loud, overdramatic, and way too overexposed. Midway through the season, fans have begun to realize how hunger has clouded their decision to support the team. While the Cowboys rolled out the best offense and defense in terms of talent on both sides of the ball, Washington’s drive-thru roster resembles stale, processed burger meat.

Everything in Washington feels like it’s fast food quality. The quarterback is an undercooked fifth-round pick, the running game is mushy and the coaching staff is cooking up burnt fries. The season ended after they got burned by the Philadelphia Eagles just before the trade deadline. On Friday, the Commanders fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio after Dallas’ offense moved the ball at will. A season that began with high expectations under Del Rio’s zone match cover scheme has splintered into a mess. After impersonating a high-level defense in the second half of 2022, Washington is the league’s worst-scoring defense a year later and forced fewer turnovers than 24 of the league’s 32 teams.

It’s not entirely Del Rio’s fault. Washington has drafted clumsily on either side this decade. Former No. 2 pick Chase Young was traded to San Francisco after four underwhelming seasons in exchange for a conditional third-round pick. Washington’s most recent first-rounder Emmanuel Forbes has been a consistent DNP when healthy or sat due to injury. Washington hasn’t even ranked among the top half of scoring offenses in seven seasons.

Dallas and the Commanders used to feel like a rivalry. These days, it feels like an exhibition match between the Washington Generals and the Globetrotters. Sam Howell is the only bright spot of this season, but even he is stacking up bad performances in a hurry, while buttressing it with empty calorie numbers. In Washington’s annual Turkey Day clash, Howell also threw a pick-six to DaRon Bland. Howell shouldn’t be judged too harshly for his rookie mistakes against a top-five defense. Bland has now picked off a record five pick-sixes this season in Diggs’ absence.

A season that began with aspirations of another playoff run has devolved into another race to the bottom. This team needs more than a rebrand. It needs a new coaching staff, a new attitude, and Washington has seen enough to invest another season into Howell.

Howell currently leads the league in passing yardage and has accumulated a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio. But he’s also discovered that the Washington offensive line is a paper straw. Through 12 games, Howell has been sacked 55 times, 17 more than the second-most sacked signal caller, Zach Wilson. At his current pace, Howell is on pace to surpass David Carr as the most-sacked quarterback in a single season.

This is the cycle for Washington signal callers. The front office discovers a middling talent, devotes way too many seasons to a team with .500 upside, and then repeats the process over and over again. What’s the point of having Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson lining up at receiver if you aren’t going to have a premium arm delivering passes to them downfield?

Offensively, Ceedee Lamb and Dak Prescott constitute one of the most formidable tandems in football. Say what you will about Prescott’s playoff shortcomings, but he’s a chef behind a line of scrimmage compared to Washington’s line cooks. Whereas Washington is arguably the league’s most porous defense, Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs as defensive cornerstones are defouling opposing offenses all on their own.

Even if their seasons have a habit of ending tragically, at least they’re in the mix. Washington still smells like years-old bad ingredients under a heat lamp.

Follow DJ Dunson on X: @cerebralsportex

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.