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June 26, 2024

10 reasons the Commanders will be a dumpster fire this season

Washington had a decent offseason — but that doesn't absolve them of all of their sins.

Eagles NFL
062624DanQuinnRonRivera Bob Donnan/for PhillyVoice

The Commanders made a coaching swap.

This week, all week long, we're taking a negative look at each of the teams in the NFC East, in detail. Today we'll roast the Washington Commanders. 

To note, we will not be talking about the positives of any of the Eagles' NFC East rivals, because, well, that's no fun. This will be 100 percent vitriolic. And yes, we'll get to the Eagles as well at the end of the series.


Cowboys | Giants

1) The new head coach kinda feels a little too familiar

Dan Quinn won a Super Bowl as the defensive coordinator of the "Legion of Boom" Seahawks and then quickly landed a head coaching job with the Falcons. His tenure in Atlanta started out well enough, but it unraveled over his final three seasons, and he was fired after a 0-5 start in 2020:

• 2015: 8-8, no playoffs.
• 2016: 11-5, 2-1 in the playoffs, Super Bowl appearance, blew a 28-3 lead to the Patriots.
• 2017: 10-6, 1-1 in the playoffs, lost to the Eagles in the divisional round, 15-10.
• 2018: 7-9, no playoffs.
• 2019: 7-9, no playoffs.
• 2020: 0-5, fired.

The following season, Quinn was hired to be the Cowboys' defensive coordinator and over the next two seasons (both in 2021 and 2022) his defense led the NFL in takeaways. In 2023, the Cowboys were the fifth-ranked defense in the NFL by DVOA during the regular season, but they were helpless in the playoffs against the Green Bay Packers, who racked up 48 points in a wildcard-round blowout.

Prior to the Cowboys' one-and-done playoff loss, Quinn was thought of as a near lock to land a head coaching job. After it, many wondered if the Cowboys' abysmal defensive performance would sour teams on him.

Quinn clearly wasn't the Commanders' first choice. They were literally on their way to Detroit (like, in the plane somewhere over Pennsylvania or something) to interview offensive coordinator Ben Johnson for a second time, when they received word that Johnson was choosing to stay with the Lions.

An offensive-minded head coach would have made more sense for a Commanders franchise that was always going to select a quarterback with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2024 draft. Instead, they settled on Quinn, a competent coach but one who will not fire up their fan base, especially since it's easy to draw parallels to the coach he replaced, Ron Rivera. Both Quinn and Rivera are defensive-minded, player friendly coaches with near 0.500 records who both lost Super Bowls with NFC South teams. (Mentally insert Spider-Man pointing at himself meme here.)

2) The one thing that opposing teams had to worry about is no longer a worry

No matter how bad Washington has been over the last half decade or so, there was always the threat of their defensive line wrecking games. From 2017 to 2020, they spent first round picks each season on a defensive linemen.

• 2017: DT Jonathan Allen, 17th overall
• 2018: DT Daron Payne, 13th overall
• 2019: EDGE Montez Sweat, 26th overall
• 2020: EDGE Chase Young, 2nd overall

Young never came close to living up to his potential or that could have been a historically great line.

And now they're disbanded. During the 2023 season, Sweat was traded to the Bears, and Young was traded for peanuts to the 49ers, while Allen and Payne both had down seasons while cumulatively making more than $40 million per season.


Getting traded by the Commanders at the trade deadline must feel like the scene in Platoon when King gets to go home.

My "Best Feeling a Player Can Have in the NFL" Power Rankings:

  1. Winning the Super Bowl.
  2. Getting traded by the Commanders to literally any other team.

3) The pass defense was atrocious in 2023

First, the stats:

Commanders pass D Stat NFL rank 
 Pass defense DVOA32 
Passing yards allowed per game 272.2 32 
 Passing yards allowed per attempt7.7 30 
 Passing TDs allowed39 32 
 Pass plays of 40+ yards12 29 
 Opposing passer rating105.7 32 

The player who was alarmingly bad was first-round rookie Emmanuel Forbes. Against the Eagles Week 4, Forbes got lit up. The Eagles completed 9 passes on 13 targets against him, for 197 (!) yards and 2 TDs, including the game winner. Here's TD No. 1:

Aaaaand TD No. 2:

Forbes was shook on the sideline after that last TD.

If you're playing cornerback in the NFL you better have a short memory and rebound from bad games quickly. Forbes did not. Against the Bears Week 5, he was attacked early, and gave up 3 catches on 3 targets for 76 yards and a couple of missed tackles that led to big gains.

And this:

The Commanders benched him in the first half.

Brown's and Moore's huge days against Forbes were probably as much on troglodyte defensive coordinator JaQ Del Rio as they were on Forbes for putting his physically overmatched rookie corner in bad matchups. Maybe Del Rio was too busy chatting on 4chan to realize that Brown outweighed Forbes by 60 pounds? 

Maybe Forbes will bulk up a bit now that he's in the NFL? Nope.

To be clear, that's Forbes on the left. 👆

It wasn't just Brown and Moore who terrorized the Commanders, and it certainly wasn't just Forbes who played badly. They allowed big games to opposing receivers all season.

• Marvin Mims, Broncos: 2 catches, 113 yards, 1 TD
• Stefon Diggs, Bills: 8 catches, 111 yards
• A.J. Brown, Eagles: 9 catches, 175 yards, 2 TDs
• D.J. Moore, Bears: 8 catches, 230 yards, 3 TDs
• Drake London, Falcons: 9 catches, 125 yards
• Darren Waller, Giants: 7 catches, 98 yards, 1 TD
• A.J. Brown, Eagles: 8 catches, 130 yards, 2 TDs
• DK Metcalf, Seahawks: 9 catches, 98 yards
• Tyler Lockett, Seahawks: 8 catches, 92 yards, 1 TD
• Darius Slayton, Giants: 4 catches, 82 yards, 1 TD
• Brandin Cooks, Cowboys: 4 catches, 72 yards, 1 TD
• Tyreek Hill, Dolphins, 5 catches, 157 yards, 2 TDs
• Cooper Kupp, Rams: 8 catches, 111 yards, 2 TDs
• Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers: 7 catches, 114 yards, 1 TD
• CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys: 13 catches, 98 yards, 2 TDs

The arrival of Quinn should help the pass defense. Literally anyone will be better than Del Rio, frankly. But personnel-wise, the secondary doesn't really look that different. The only major change is that Kamren Curl is being replaced at safety by a guy who should be playing linebacker in Jeremy Chinn.

4) Wait, they hired WHO to be their offensive line coach?

As we noted in the Giants installment of this dumpster fire series, the Giants led the NFL with 85 sacks allowed in 2023. The Commanders were a distant second in sacks allowed, with 65:

 TeamSacks allowed 

The Commanders signed two projected starters during free agency:

• C Tyler Biadasz: Biadasz has been the the Cowboys' starting center for the last three seasons, but he's just kind of a guy. He got a three-year deal worth $30 million. The Commanders have had all kinds of issues at center over the last few years, and will hope that Biadasz solidifies that spot.

• OG Nick Allegretti: Allegretti has played at LG, C, and RG for the Chiefs, and will give the Commanders some OL versatility/flexibility. Three years, $16 million is perhaps a bit of an overpay, but he's a useful enough player.

They also drafted athletic TCU OG Brandon Coleman in the third round.

None of that fixes their issues at offensive tackle, where Andrew Wylie is a below average starter and Cornelius Lucas is a replacement-level JAG.

But whatever. The insane move that they made was hiring Bobby Johnson to coach their O-line. Who's Bobby Johnson? Well, he was the Giants' offensive line coach the last two years for the Giants, lol 🤯. Over the last two seasons, Johnson has gotten nothing out of seventh overall pick Evan Neal, and 2023 second-round center John Michael Schmitz had a rough rookie season. I mean, 85 sacks allowed is the second highest single-season total in NFL history!

And what's really vexing is that Quinn's defenses in Dallas sacked Giants quarterbacks 12 times last season. Quinn owned this dude, and then he hired him. Huh?!

In Road House (the 1989 version), at the end of the movie Tinker is the lone bad guy who didn't get killed because he was trapped under a stuffed polar bear. 

He was literally trying to murder the good guys one minute, and the next minute, after the main bad guy and all the other henchmen got killed the good guys offered Tinker a job. Actually, do I have that right? They offered him a job at the end of the movie? That's how I remember it but I didn't want to pay $6.99 for the full movie to confirm. Anyway, the Commanders hiring Bobby Johnson makes about as much sense as that.

5) The Commanders actually had a logical offseason (IMO), but...

For full disclosure, I actually kinda get what the Commanders did this offseason. They entered free agency with the most cap space in the NFL, and after signing nearly 20 outside players, they still have over $37 million in cap space, per OverTheCap, the second-most in the NFL. 

In free agency, they didn't add many players who appear to be in their long-term plans. I would count LB Frankie Luvu, C Tyler Biadasz, OL Nick Allegretti, and DE Dorance Armstrong among the long-term players. The majority of their other signings were veterans on one-year deals, many of whom are way over the hill, an approach that some rightfully questioned. Still, by adding a lot of vets, they improved their roster to a level where the rookie quarterback wouldn't be surrounded by utter garbage, and they were also going to be able to add plenty of good, young prospects at other positions in the draft with their robust draft capital.

They improved their team both in the short-term and long-term, surrounding Jayden Daniels with veterans who know what they're doing (even if in decline), while also maintaining the flexibility to spend again in free agency next offseason. I see a logical plan that I haven't been used to seeing from this organization.

Well shit, that's not fun. 😞

The bright side for those who would like to see the Commanders continue to fail is that this team is just SO far away that it's going to take years of smart moves to creep back into contention.

Personally, I don't like:

  1. Their offensive line: The tackles suck, and Sam Cosmi aside, the interior is average.
  2. Their wide receivers: Terry McLaurin aside.
  3. Their tight ends: Old friend Zach Ertz is pretty much done. 
  4. Their running backs: They have a few legitimate NFL players, but nobody I'd be thrilled about starting.
  5. Their corners: As detailed above. 
  6. Their safeties: As detailed above.
  7. Their edge rushers: Players suited for smaller roles are projected starters.

They had a reasonably good offseason, but are in no way any kind of threat in 2024.

6) Some of these guys they signed, lol

Zach Ertz will turn 34 in November. Bobby Wagner will turn 34 on Thursday. Austin Ekeler is 29 (like 38 in running back years). Marcus Mariota will be 31 in October. Those guys would be amazing additions if it were 2019, but they do nothing to help the team long-term. Again, I get the logic of trying to field a team that won't get boat raced every week, but some of the guys they signed just don't make a lot of sense to me.

Collectively, Ertz, Wagner, Ekeler, and Mariota will make roughly $20 million in 2024. Why not use that money toward signing another impact player or two who can be part of the long-term plan? Like, why spend $6 million on Mariota? You're probably better off just losing any game a backup might have to play anyway.

To me it's funnier from the perspective of those players. Nobody actually wants to play in Washington, and those guys must've been like, "Well shit, it's this or nothing."

The Commanders also signed a long snapper (Tyler Ott), which is particularly funny since they traded up for one (Camaron Cheeseman) a few years ago. Looking back at that trade, in the 2021 draft they traded a future 5 (which would end up being the 154th overall pick) for a 6th round pick (225th overall) in 2021, and they picked a long snapper, who didn't even make it through his rookie contract.

7) They picked the right quarterback (IMO), but...

Daniels has more upside than any of the quarterbacks taken in the 2024 draft, in my opinion, even if he looks like he might break in half the first time he takes a big hit. Of course, I also thought Trey Lance had the most upside of all the quarterbacks in the 2021 draft, and I was wrong on that. So was new Commanders GM (and former 49ers assistant GM) Adam Peters, for that matter. 

Maybe Daniels will pan out, maybe he won't. But what is very likely true is that he's not going to win many games as a rookie.

Since 2000, 176 rookie quarterbacks have started at least one game. Only 11 won at least 9 games. (We'll use 9 since (a) that's roughly what it should take to make the playoffs, and (b) it would mean a winning record.)

• 13 wins: Dak Prescott, Ben Roethlisberger.
• 11 wins: Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco.
• 10 wins: Mac Jones, Kyle Orton.
• 9 wins: RG3, C.J. Stroud, Andy Dalton.

25 lost at least 9 games.

Even if Daniels is good immediately, he's far more likely to lose 9 than win 9, because again, his supporting cast is ass.

Also, I should note that if Daniels gets hurt, Marcus Mariota is one of the worst quarterbacks I've watched in Eagles training camp in my 11 seasons covering the team.

8) So I guess we can officially call Jamin Davis a bust (if we couldn't already)?

Davis was the Commanders' first-round pick in 2021, and he has had three disappointing seasons. The Commanders signed Wagner and Luvu this offseason, and spoiler, they're going to start. The Commanders evidently experimented a bit with Davis on the edge during spring practices, which is probably less about putting him in a different spot to accentuate his skill set, and more about having no use for him at linebacker.

He did avoid jail time earlier this offseason from a 2022 arrest in which he was driving 114 MPH in a 45 MPH zone, so he's got that going for him.

The Commanders drafted first-round busts in 2019 (Dwayne Haskins), 2020 (Chase Young), 2021 (Jamin Davis), mayyyybe 2022 (Jahan Dotson might want to have a productive season this year), and possibly 2023 (Emmanuel Forbes).

9) They had to cut their kicker

In early June, the Commanders released Brandon McManus. Per NBC News, McManus "faces a civil suit from two women who allege he rubbed himself on them and tried to kiss one of them while they worked as flight attendants on a team-chartered flight last year, when he still played for the Jacksonville Jaguars." 

If this were still the Dan Snyder era, McManus might've been viewed as executive material.

The lone kicker on the Commanders' roster currently is someone named Ramiz Ahmed. I imagine they'll sign a more recognizable name by training camp.

Still, not having a kicker isn't ideal! #Analysis. Remember when Washington had to sign Chris Blewitt, and 3 of his 5 field goal attempts got blocked because he couldn't elevate his kicks? 

You don't want to be that team that can't make kicks when the rest of the league is close to automatic.

10) The Commanders still have residual stink on them from the Dan Snyder era

As noted above, the Commanders were forced to settle on Quinn as their head coach. It's a good bet that prospective hires were wary of hitching their wagon to new owner Josh Harris and this franchise that remains widely viewed as one of the worst in sports. Hell, the quarterback they just drafted reportedly expressed that he didn't want to play in Washington prior to the draft.

Even under new ownership, the Commanders finished dead last in the NFLPA's 2024 "NFL Player Team Report Cards."


The overview:

Josh Harris purchased the Washington Commanders in July this past year. The organization received low marks across the board last year, so there is no shortage of issues that need marked improvement after years of neglect. The one bright spot for the club is the players’ ranking of the Commanders strength coaches, with 98% of player respondents saying that they get the best possible individualized plan.

The survey data reveals a long list of items with the workplace that continue to be problems, and players expressed that they have grown tired of the deficiencies. To start, the locker room is small and in desperate need of renovation, with players reporting multiple sewage leaks. The training room is significantly understaffed, with only 52% of players saying they receive an adequate amount of one-on-one treatment time for injury recovery and prevention. Equipment in the weight room and training room was described as below the standards required of a professional sports franchise, and the Commanders are one of seven teams where players believe the club’s facility is no better than other places they could train offsite.

When asked what the number one issue respondents want to prioritize for fixing, most players couldn’t come up with just one. Instead, the common answer was the entire facility. The players understand that the new club ownership didn’t create these current problems, and they are hopeful that the new team ownership is willing to do what it takes to fix them.

There's only so much the Commanders can do for the time being about their horrendous stadium and their bad facilities, and they actually have dumped money into some renovations, but there are also very easy improvements that can be made otherwise that don't require new construction. Treat the players' families better. Serve good food. Make the players more comfortable when they travel. It shouldn't be that hard to make sweeping improvements across the board, given where this franchise was. 

As a longtime Sixers fan, I think Harris is a bad owner. We got into way more detail on that in last year's Commanders dumpster fire post if you're interested why. But from what I have seen so far, it's been about as expected. He's obviously better than Dan Snyder, as anyone would be, but I just don't see the urgency in doing everything possible to fix the errors of the previous ownership. He made some renovations to a stadium that desperately needed them? BFD. Do more.

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