All posts in photos

06Feb

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.”

17Jan

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.

15Nov

Led by Charlie Lindgren, Capitals shutout Golden Knights

A little more than 24 hours after visiting the White House, the Vegas Golden Knights looked to build on their strong start to the young NHL season at the expense of the Washington Capitals.

Goalie Charlie Lindgren had other ideas though, stopping all 35 shots he faced in a 3-0 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champions, which marked Washington’s first shutout of the season and the veteran netminder’s first shutout with the franchise. After a slow start to the campaign (with just one win in their first five contests), the Capitals have now won three consecutive games and six of their last eight.

For much of last season, Washington looked old and slow out on the ice — plodding up and down the ice during open play and taking too long to get set up on the powerplay. This season has seen a much-needed infusion of youth and speed to go along with first-year coach Spencer Carbery, and the results have been promising. During the preseason, the line of Dylan Strome, Sonny Milano and Matthew Phillips stood out for their efforts and against Vegas, they once again delivered — as Strome scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season in the late stages of the first period.

Early in the second period, center Evgeny Kuznetsov dropped to the ice in obvious pain after an illegal hit to the head by Golden Knights center Paul Cotter, who was ejected from the game. Washington received a five-minute powerplay, but the league’s worst powerplay unit failed to capitalize on the lengthy advantage. Typically, killing off a five-minute penalty provides a huge boost and the Golden Knights upped their efforts once they returned to even strength, but Lindgren continually found ways to thwart Vegas’ high-powered attack.

Connor McMichael and Beck Malenstyn added goals in the final minute of regulation to ensure the Caps closed out their most impressive victory of the season. While the top-line talent remained quiet, goals from the second, third and fourth lines showed nice balance across the roster and provided a reason for optimism moving forward. If/when the biggest names on the roster begin to produce, this season could become a lot more interesting.

25Oct

Against Toronto, Capitals continue to find ways to lose

It’s safe to say that the Washington Capitals aren’t off to the best of starts. Through four games, the Caps have been blown out twice, lost once in overtime and picked up their lone win via shootout. They’ve scored just six goals in those four games (lowest in the league), none on the powerplay (also lowest in the league) and have yet to lead a game for a single second (which is not ideal).

The team is so out of sync right now that left wing Alex Ovechkin failed to register a shot in back-to-back games for the first time in his Hall of Fame career (1,496 games). It’s not a controversial statement to suggest when the face of the franchise struggles, so too does the franchise itself.

In an effort to rectify issues that have plagued them this season, the Capitals had their best start to a game this season — applying tons of pressure and spending ample time in the offensive zone. And for a few moments center Nicklas Backstrom appeared to give Washington its first lead of the season, when he corralled the loose puck and fired it over Toronto goaltender Joseph Woll in the opening period. Alas, the officials determined that Ovechkin impacted Woll’s ability to make a save on the play, so the game remained scoreless.

Even though they played with much more confidence and aggression, the Caps still found themselves down 2-0 for a fifth-consecutive game. Washington outshot Toronto by 37-17, but the Maple Leafs made their limited number of shots count as Morgan Rielly, John Tavares, William Nylander and Auston Matthews each scored for the visitors. Capitals goalie Darcy Kuemper made just 13 saves.

On the other side of the rink, Ovechkin registered 14 shots, nearly matching Toronto’s shot total by himself. The 38-year-old was awarded a penalty shot when Mark Giordano hooked him on a breakaway during the second period, but was unable to convert the opportunity. While he will go down as one of the best goal scorers the league has ever seen, Ovechkin has scored on just two of 13 career penalty shots. The Great 8 did score his first goal this season — the 300th power-play goal and 823rd of his storied career — during the final moments of the second period. But the outcome had long since been decided by that point.

“It’s the same old story,” said coach Spencer Carbery. “We’re finding ways to lose hockey games. In the National Hockey League, you can do all the good things you want. Structurally, there are a lot of good things going on, no question. But at the end of the day, if you want to be a good team in this league, you’ve got to find ways to win as opposed to finding ways to lose.”

17Oct

Darcy Kuemper proves the difference in shootout win over Flames

After stumbling out the gates in their season opener, the Washington Capitals looked to rebound three days later against the Calgary Flames. But for the second-straight game, the home team got off to a poor start and found themselves on the verge of another blowout loss.

If not for goalie Darcy Kuemper, the competitive portion of the evening would have once again come and gone before the Capitals ever got started — with Calgary outshooting the Caps 15-1 to start the game while building a 2-0 lead. Kuemper, who missed the Pittsburgh game for the birth of his son, stopped 38 of 40 shots on the night. He also saved a penalty shot during regulation and all three attempts during the shootout. Again, he was stellar while earning his first win as a father.

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, utilizing his methodically slow method known as the “Kuzy Crawl,” scored the only goal of the shootout to complete the comeback. Washington also received a strong showing from 25-year-old forward Matthew Phillips, who scored his first NHL goal and picked up an assist against his former club. And, on a night of so many “firsts,” Capitals’ coach Spencer Carbery also secured his first win as an NHL head coach.

Sadly, the franchise’s home sellout streak came to an end at 588 consecutive games. While the Capitals remain the best ticket in town, after missing the postseason for the first time in nine years and with ticket prices continuing to rise, Capital One Arena is no longer guaranteed to be sold out every time the home team takes to the ice. A sad, but not completely surprising, scenario for a team much closer to the end of than the beginning of an era.

14Oct

Capitals rock the red carpet, get rolled by Pittsburgh

Hours before the puck dropped on the 2023-24 season, members of the Washington Capitals hit the red carpet in style — arriving to the venue in luxury vehicles donning designer suits, they smiled for the cameras and signed countless autographs for a sea of red-clad fans. It was a picture perfect way to signify the start of the new campaign.

The same could not be said about the game that followed. With their chief rival in town, the Capitals were thoroughly schooled by the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-0, in front of a sellout crowd.

After last season ended in disappointment, with the Caps missing the playoffs for the first time since 2014, cautious optimism filled the hearts and minds of the fanbase eager to see what a healthy core of returning veterans could do under new coach Spencer Carbery. Sadly, Washington was out-hustled, outworked and outclassed by Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Malkin and friends.

“We shot ourselves in the foot with our execution and puck management,” said center Nicklas Backstrom, or the team’s lackluster showing.

For better or worse, it’s wise not to fixate on any one particular performance over the course of an 82-game regular season. Players are trained to never get too high or too low, and fans would be wise to embrace a similar mentality. That said, this was a less-than-ideal way to turn the page

“It’s the worst scripted start we possibly could’ve had in terms of just being disappointed. Home ice, trying to generate some momentum from a season standpoint. That certainly did not happen,” Carbery said.

06Oct

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.

HomerMcFanboy background image