All posts in football


Dan Quinn named Commanders head coach

While there were certainly twists and turns in the road, anyone truly surprised with how the story played out wasn’t paying attention.

At his introductory news conference last month, Washington Commanders general manager Adam Peters flat-out said the franchise’s next head coach wouldn’t be limited to an offensive- or defensive-minded specialist, but rather “the best leader for this organization.” Apparently, a large chunk of the fanbase either didn’t get the memo or willfully chose to ignore this message.

While many (myself included) clamored for a young, innovative coaching candidate such as Detroit’s Ben Johnson or Baltimore’s Mike Macdonald, these words from Peters should have been a strong indicator of just how seriously Dan Quinn was being considered. And look, I get it, Quinn is the human equivalent of wool pajamas. There’s nothing sexy about this hiring. But he might end up being exactly what the franchise needs at this time.

Quinn is not the next Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan. But he is universally respected by damn-near every person he has worked with during his extensive NFL coaching career. And the 53-year-old has been preparing for this possibility since he was fired five games into his sixth season as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons in 2020.

“When I left Atlanta, it was during the middle of the season,” said Quinn. “And so, you have time to reflect. It’s lonely, it’s disappointing, it’s depressing. But you don’t want to just rinse and repeat. You want to make sure: How do I take this, change it and then make sure you get to prove it again? And so that was the silver lining in this. I’m a better version of me today than I was three, four or five years ago.”

In addition to Quinn, Washington announced the hiring of Kliff Kingsbury as offensive coordinator and Joe Whitt Jr. as defensive coordinator. Kingsbury has a proven track record of working with young, talented quarterbacks — including Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech, Kyler Murray in Arizona and Caleb Williams at USC. This addition makes a ton of sense for the Commanders, who have the second overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and six selections in the top 102.

On that note, if Washington is convinced that Williams is the best possible quarterback available and is willing to give up the necessary draft capital to land him, they can at least take solace in knowing that their franchise quarterback and offensive coordinator will be on the same page from the jump. But if they ultimately stay at No. 2 and select North Carolina’s Drake Maye or LSU’s Jayden Daniels, their rookie quarterback will still be in capable hands.

Fun, but ultimately random fact: Kingsbury was New England’s sixth-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. That same season, Peters began his NFL career with the Patriots as an assistant scout.

Whitt Jr. comes from Dallas where he worked alongside Quinn as a secondary coach and defensive passing game coordinator. For three seasons, the dynamic duo were typically found in close proximity in the coach’s booth during a game. As a Dallas defender causes a turnover, Quinn usually brought big energy and ample enthusiasm while Whitt Jr. was much more stoic and subdued. While Quinn was fist-pumping and high-fiving, Whitt Jr. had his head down, already focused on the next play. These two know each other well and complement one another nicely.

Also worth noting: Since taking over the Dallas secondary in ’21, Whitt’s unit led the league with 59 interceptions. Last season, Dallas’ pass defense ranked fifth in passing yards allowed per game (187.4) and recorded 17 interceptions, tied for eighth most in the NFL. Some suggested Whitt Jr. could become the new Dallas defensive coordinator if Quinn was hired elsewhere this offseason, but that obviously didn’t happen.

Instead, the duo arrives in the nation’s capital with hopes of restoring glory to a once-proud franchise. It won’t be easy, but they’re looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m going to give myself a little grace and allow one swear word here because I’ve done a pretty good job so far,” Quinn said. “I haven’t had any, and I swear a lot. But there is nothing I enjoy more than doing hard shit with good people.”


Adam Peters named Commanders general manager

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.


Lowly Bears humiliate Commanders in primetime affair

Coming into Thursday Night Football, the Chicago Bears were just 3-18 since last season began and the first team in NFL history to allow 25 or more points in 14 straight games. In fact, nearly a calendar year had come and gone since Chicago’s last victory. Compounding matter for Chicago, three of their preferred four secondary members were injured and the Bears were forced to protect quarterback Justin Fields with their third-string left tackle. And yet, none of it mattered.

The Bears roared out of the gates, jumping out to a 24-point lead before halftime to earn their first win in 347 days. Receiver D.J. Moore had four receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown … in the first quarter alone, and finished the night with eight catches for 230 yards and three touchdowns. The man was so unstoppable that rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes was benched during the second half, but he was far from the only Washington defender who struggled in this game or during the season at large. The Commanders defense has now allowed an average of 352 yards and 30 points per game this season, which is unacceptable for a unit with such a substantial investment — both monitarily and in draft capital.

Things weren’t any better on the other side of the house either. The game got out of hand so quickly that offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy abandoned the running game entirely — quarterback Sam Howell was Washington’s leading rusher with four carries for 19 yards — turning his unit into an entirely one dimensonial and predictable. Washington dropped back to pass an astounding 55 consecutive times against the Bears, who registered five sacks and 11 quarterback hits.

“Tonight the Commanders played with no intensity or fire,” said Magic Johnson, on social media after the humbling loss. “We didn’t compete in the first half and got down 27-3 heading into halftime. It was too big of a hole to climb out of, and that is why we ended up losing 40-20.”

Washington has lost their last two home games by a combined 54 points, which is an excellent way to squander any good will and/or optimism the fanbase had when the new ownership group took over this past offseason.


Commanders show improvements, but can’t close out Eagles in overtime

By all accounts, the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles appear to be two of the top five teams in the league this season. Both franchises have aspirations of playing for championships with stacked rosters on both sides of the ball.

The Washington Commanders, of course, are nowhere near the NFL’s top five. They remain a work-in-progress with far more questions than answers but are at least trending in a positive direction. Top-tier opposition, like Buffalo and Philadelphia, provides a welcome measuring stick to see where the burgundy and gold stack up about a quarter of the way through the season.

During Week 3, the offense was woefully prepared for the onslaught of havoc the Bills wreaked in the backfield. Sam Howell was pressured on 69 percent of his drop backs and sacked nine times. The offense responded by turning the ball over five times and went just one for nine on third downs, neither of which is conducive to winning football games. 

One week later, the Commanders fared much better against the Eagles. Rather than abandoning the ground game early on, Washington adopted a much more balanced approach. And on passing downs, Eric Bieniemy smartly opted to get the ball out of his young quarterback’s hands much quicker — making Sam Howell less of a sitting target against a talented Eagles’ defensive front. Staying committed to the running game, as well as three-step drops and some occasional rollouts made it harder for Philadelphia to get their hands on the North Carolina product.

Howell is still on pace to be sacked 102 times this season, which would shatter the previous record of 76, but the offense found itself in a groove early and led 17-7 with less than two minutes to go before halftime. The Commanders’ problems in Week 4, came on the other side of the ball. 

Eagles receiver A.J. Brown finished the day with nine catches for 175 yards and two touchdowns, most of which came at the expense of Commanders rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes. For the most part, the rest of Philadelphia’s explosive weapons were held largely in check. But while it might be easy to chalk up the loss to a rookie’s struggles, that stance misses the larger picture.

Washington’s defense, which coming into the season was clearly viewed as the strength of the franchise, has given up 30 points or more in three straight contests, with opposing teams combining for 120 points through four games. That’s not nearly good enough.


Commanders’ offense goes missing in blowout loss to Bills

For just the sixth time in the Super Bowl era, a defense intercepted four passes and had at least nine sacks as the Buffalo Bills soundly defeated the Washington Commanders, 37-3.

And just like that, the honeymoon period for quarterback Sam Howell and friends is over. On the field and off it, the vibes have been largely positive as the local fanbase enjoys the beginning of the post-Daniel Snyder era. A new ownership group, led by Josh Harris, Magic Johnson and others, has distracted folks from some otherwise troubling trends so far this season.

For starters, Howell has been sacked 19 times through three games. Not only is that the most sacks allowed this season (six more than the next closest team) — it’s the most any offense has allowed three games into a season since 2005.

The Buffalo stampede was constant, as the Bills pressured Howell on 27 of 39 drop backs (69 percent). The first-year starter responded by completing 19 of 29 passes for 170 yards with zero touchdowns and four interceptions.

When Howell wasn’t turning the ball over, the offense still couldn’t get out of its own way. Running back Antonio Gibson only had five touches on the day but still managed to fumble for the second time in three games, the majority of the offensive line continues to look overwhelmed, and Washington converted just one of nine third-down attempts on the day.

Buffalo’s nine sacks were the most since the franchise registered 10 — against Washington — back in 2011. John Beck was the quarterback that day in Toronto, in one of the worst games during my 19 seasons on the sidelines. And yet, somehow, this showing was far worse. Howell has been pressured a league-high 15.4 percent of his drop backs, which isn’t going to change unless he starts to get rid of the ball quicker and/or the offensive line collectively steps up its game.


Commanders hold off Broncos to complete largest road comeback since 1990

One of the more troubling trends during Ron Rivera’s time in Washington has been his team’s penchant for slow starts. Last season, the Commanders dropped four of their first five games to start the season. In 2021, Washington lost six of the eight opening games on the schedule. And in Rivera’s first season, the burgundy and gold lost six of seven.

Two games into the 2023 season, the Commanders once again appear content to make life more difficult on themselves. During their season opener, Arizona entered the fourth quarter with a 16-10 lead before the defense stepped up to seize the game for Washington. One week later, the Commanders looked completely jet lagged as Denver raced out to a far-too-easy 21-3 first half lead.

Fortunately for Rivera and friends, the entire Broncos roster appeared disinterested in playing past halftime — enabling Washington to rally from 18 points down to defeat Denver 35-33 at Empower Field at Mile High. The defense once again woke up after halftime and finished the day with seven sacks and two turnovers. On offense, Eric Bieniemy’s group was finally able to move the ball — scoring touchdowns on drives of 57, 75 and 64 yards — to turn momentum completely in favor of the visitors.

With the win, Washington improved to 2-0. But any objective observer should see the team’s lackadaisical approach to the first half is a recipe for disaster. Arizona and Denver are both giving off vibes of teams that will be in the bottom half of the league standings. Better opponents remain on the schedule and will have little trouble capitalizing on such a substantial head start.


With Daniel Snyder gone, Commanders outlast Cardinals

To outside observers, the Washington Commanders hosting the Arizona Cardinals was one of the least attractive matchups of Week 1. And sure, there are more compelling ways to kick off your NFL action than with two franchises with zero expectations this season, but that thought process missed the bigger picture.

For the first time in more than two decades, Daniel Snyder is no longer involved with the local professional football team. The toxic little dictator who ran a once-proud franchise into the ground is finally gone, giving the fanbase legitimate cause for optimism for the first time in ages. This explains why Washington, which hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005, had a bevy of celebrities and iconic former players in attendance Sunday.

Kevin Durant. Joel Embiid. Alex Ovechkin. Lindsay Vonn. Wale. Magic Johnson.

Champ Bailey. John Riggins. Sonny Jurgensen. Billy Kilmer. Joe Theismann. Dexter Manley. Charles Mann. Clinton Portis. Santana Moss. London Fletcher. Robert Griffin III.

Those big names, as well as 65,000 of their closest friends, packed into a sold-out FedEx Field to witness the dawn of a new day for the Commanders. And what they got was … well … a work in progress.

Quarterback Sam Howell and the Commanders’ offense had an uneven showing, turning the ball over three times and allowing six sacks. The fifth rounder and the offensive line were both highlighted as potential areas of concern by objective outsiders coming into the season, and both lived up to the billing. To that end, Washington actually trailed 16-10 at halftime, even though Arizona is widely considered the team most likely to tank this season away in hopes of a better draft pick.

The defense, led by defensive end Montez Sweat’s two forced fumbles and 1.5 sacks, created two fourth-quarter turnovers paving the way to a much-needed 20-16 victory. That said, while it’s nice to officially kick off the new era with a win, the Commanders clearly still have plenty of areas to improve upon moving forward. Better teams will come to town and be better prepared to capitalize on the types of mistakes that are easily overlooked against a mediocre opponent like the Cardinals.

HomerMcFanboy background image