When the Washington Commanders held a press conference for new general manager Adam Peters, I had to be there. That’s because the occasion marked a significant moment in the franchise’s history and is the beginning stage of what will hopefully be known as the “Era of Competence.”
The last time Washington had a legitimate general manager acting and operating in that role was from 1989-99, when Charley Casserly called the shots. And the last time a legitimate general manager was involved in the hiring of a head coach in this town was in ’94 when Norv Turner was tabbed. Simply put, if you’re under the age of 30, you’ve never witnessed anything like this.
Once Daniel Snyder sold the franchise to Josh Harris and friends, locals hoped and dreamed of better days, but the impact of landing the hottest and most sought-after candidate on the market cannot be overstated. The torturous days of a meddlesome owner playing fantasy football are mercifully gone. Now, qualified football people will be dictating the direction of the once-proud franchise.
Regardless of whether Peters ultimately selects Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson (one of the brightest young minds in the game), Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald (an intriguing candidate who has spearheaded several impressive showings this season) or someone else as the new head coach (Dan Quinn? Raheem Morris?), there’s little reason to believe they’ll be forced to settle for a punchline like Steve Spurrier, Jim Zorn or Jay Gruden to lead the locker room.
The phrase that pays in Ashburn these days is “aligned vision.” And look, a coherent structure where ownership, the general manager and head coach are all on the same page might not be earth shattering elsewhere, but it’s radically different from the last two decades of dysfunction in our nation’s capital. Congrats to all who survived the days of overpaying over-the-hill free agents and/or forcing talent evaluators to burn a first-round draft pick on a kid because he went to the same high school as your child. May we never speak of them again.
In the not-too-distant future, attention will turn to April’s NFL Draft, where the Commanders hold the second overall pick. Peters, his staff and hand-picked coach, will identify which player best fits with their new brand of football. Will they turn to LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels? Or possibly North Carolina’s Drake Maye? Or does draft day end with USC’s Caleb Williams somehow becoming the new face of the franchise? Whichever direction they go one thing is certain — competent and qualified individuals are making the impactful decisions.
In my 19 seasons covering the team, the Redskins/Football Team/Commanders have made the playoffs just five times while finishing with double digit losses in nine seasons. In fact, 2012 and 2005 are the only two seasons over that span where Washington won 10 games. Nothing guarantees that the 2024 season will play out any differently, but for the first time since Robert Griffin III had two working knees, there is legitimate cause for optimism.