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November 21, 2023

NFC Hierarchy/Obituary: Week 12 edition

In his latest NFC Hierarchy, Jimmy Kempski bides farewell to the Washington Commanders.

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112123JoshHarris Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports

The Josh Harris honeymoon in Washington will be over soon enough.

Week 11 of the NFL season is in the books, and we have a new obituary. That would be the "new owner, same results" rudderless Washington Commanders.

Obituary: Commanders (4-7)


2023 was a good year for the Washington Commanders on the simple basis that Dan Snyder sold the team. During his 24-season reign of awfulness, Snyder cycled through 10 different head coaches and 27 different starting quarterbacks.

• The head coaches: Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn, Mike Shanahan, Jay Gruden, Bill Callahan, and Ron Rivera.

• The quarterbacks: Brad Johnson, Jeff George, Tony Banks, Shane Matthews, Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell, Jason Campbell, Todd Collins, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman, John Beck, Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy, Kirk 'Kurt' Cousins, Alex Smith, Mark Sanchez, Josh Johnson, Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Garrett Gilbert, Carson Wentz, and Sam Howell.

Washington's record during the Snyder era was 164-220-2 (0.427). They had just three 10-plus win seasons during that span, and did not play in a single NFC Championship Game.

But beyond all the losing, Snyder was almost cartoonishly evil, constantly embroiled in heinous scandals that were so numerous it was hard to keep track of all of them.

So that's all over. Well, sort of. 

The product on the field in 2023 didn't look any different. The Commanders are out to a 4-7 start, and they got swept by arguably the worst team in the NFL. It's not even Thanksgiving, and they're done, as usual. The highlight of their season was a preseason win over the Ravens, who at the time had a preseason winning streak of 24 games. 🥂🍾

Looking ahead, this franchise is in terrible shape, and I mean that from a football perspective.

• The one thing the Commanders could hang their hat on over the last few seasons was their defensive line, but after trading Montez Sweat and Chase Young at the deadline the cupboard is bare on the edge.

• We'll see if Sam Howell remains the starting quarterback. He actually leads the NFL with 3038 passing yards. Of course, he has 60 more pass attempts than any other quarterback, and hasn't been super efficient (24th in success rate, 19th in EPA/play).

A few weeks ago Dianna Russini of The Athletic reported that the Commanders think that Howell is "the guy."

There is a strong belief in the building that the Commanders have found their franchise quarterback in Sam Howell, and now it’s about building for 2024.

Howell has shown enough potential that the franchise shouldn't feel like they have to make some drastic move for a quarterback, and that giving him a second "tryout" year in 2024 — much like the Eagles did with Jalen Hurts in 2022 — is also an acceptable solution. However, if an opportunity to solve the quarterback spot presents itself either in the draft or elsewhere, then by all means they should jump all over that. But for anyone in that building to have a strong belief at this point that they have found their "franchise quarterback" is just... 🤯.

• And finally, the Commanders will have a new head coach in 2024. Rivera is seemingly a good guy but a bad head coach, and his firing — whenever that happens — will be viewed by the locals as a positive. The search for the new guy/gal will not be led by Snyder, which will of course mean that "it's different this time." 

Eh, we'll see. It's not as if this is an attractive setup that will appeal to the best candidates. If you look at the most important parts of the roster — notably the quarterback, offensive line, and pass rush — how many teams out there are worse than Washington? Also, while promises will almost certainly be made about the upgrade of the team's facilities, they're not moving out of FedEx anytime soon. Oh, and speaking of FedEx:


With the new ownership, there should be a substantial downtick in sexual harassment and racism within the Commanders' walls, which, well, is great! But this team is still going to suck on the field for the foreseeable future.





10) Packers (4-6): Jordan Love had a career high 322 passing yards against Brandon Staley's fraud defense, which elicited a question about whether Staley should give up play calling. He did not like the question.

Bro, you're giving up almost 300 passing yards per game. It's kind of a fair question.

Anyway, I guess this is more about the Chargers than the Packers, but I'm just happy that offenses are now consistently shredding these Staley-style "no big plays" defenses because they suck and I don't like watching them.

Last week: 10


9) Buccaneers (4-6): The Falcons and Saints had their byes this week, but Bucs and Panthers both lost.

The NFC South is now 10-22 (0.313) in games against other divisions with a combined point differential of -132.

Last week: 8


8) Falcons (4-6): The Falcons have lost six of their last eight games, as well as three straight games to the following quarterbacks:

Will Levis, who was making his professional debut. 19 of 29 for 238 yards (8.2 YPA), 4 TDs, 0 INTs.

• A combination of Jaren Hall, who was making his professional debut, and Josh Dobbs, who has been on five teams since 2022. 25 of 36 for 217 yards (6.6 YPA), 2 TDs, 0 INTs.

Kyler Murray, who was making his first appearance of the season. 19 of 32 for 249 yards (7.8 YPA), 0 TDs, 1 INT.

This garbage team will be in first place if they beat the Saints Week 12.

Last week: 9


7) Saints (5-5): As long as the Saints were on their bye Week 11, let's take a quick check in on the trades they made with the Eagles prior to the 2022 NFL Draft, and the Commanders during it. As a reminder, this was the Eagles-Saints deal:

Eagles got Saints got 
18th overall pick, 2022 16th overall pick, 2022 
Third-round pick (101st overall), 2022 19th overall pick, 2022 
Seventh-round pick (237th overall), 2022 Sixth-round pick (194th overall), 2022 
2023 first-round pick  
2024 second-round pick  

Aaaand their trade with the Commanders:

Commanders got Saints got 
16th overall pick, 2022 11th overall pick 
98th overall pick, 2022  
120th overall pick, 2022  

• With the 11th overall pick, the Saints selected WR Chris Olave.

• With the 19th overall pick, they selected OT Trevor Penning.

• With the 194th overall pick, they selected DE Jordan Jackson.

So in summary, they traded all of the following for Olave, Penning, and Jackson.

  1. The 18th and 101st overall picks, which the Eagles traded to the Titans for WR A.J. Brown.
  2. The 98th overall pick in 2022, which the Commanders used to select RB Brian Robinson.
  3. The 120th overall pick, which the Commanders traded for extra pick, one of which became QB Sam Howell.
  4. A 2023 first round pick, which more or less became DT Jalen Carter.
  5. The 237th overall pick in 2022, which became CB Chase Lucas.
  6. A second-round pick in 2024.

Olave is a nice player. 72-1042-4 as a rookie, 56-657-3 so far in 2023. Penning got benched earlier this season in favor of a 32-year-old JAG. Jackson never made the team.

Last week: 7


6) Vikings (6-5): In the latest edition of terrible NFL officiating: 

No flag. It makes no sense that you can review certain plays but not others.

Last week: 6


5) Seahawks (6-4): Last week in the Hierarchy:

Jason Myers made field goals from distances of 45, 43, 33, 45, and a walkoff from 43. The Seahawks needed all of regulation to beat the Commanders. That's the kind of game you lose when your kicker sucks.

A few days later: 

Sorry, Jason. I might be responsible for that.

Last week: 5


4) Lions (8-2): In the first 55 minutes of the Lions' matchup against the Bears, Jared Goff was 13-24 for 121 yards, 1 TD, and 3 INTs. He also had this throw that should have been a pick-six (ignore the dumb comment in the tweet and focus on the video, please):

But never count out the Bears to impossibly lose games that they seemingly have on lock:

And, sure enough, they Bears'd that game away, but even with the late Lions heroics I think this game showed that Detroit is pretty clearly not as good as the Eagles, Cowboys, and 49ers, hence their drop to fourth in the Hierarchy.

Also, this may be a silly thing to say about a young, ascending team, but I wonder if the Lions have a window of opportunity that might not be there in 2024 and beyond. With success comes harder schedules, and they're also very likely going to lose star offensive coordinator Ben Johnson to a head coaching job elsewhere.

Last week: 2


3) 49ers (7-3): Brock Purdy did not play well during a three-game stretch to close out October against the Browns, Vikings and Bengals, all of which were losses.

He has bounced back in a big way. Over the last two games, he's 40 of 51 (78.4%) for 629 yards (12.3 YPA), 6 TDs, and 0 INTs.

Purdy's numbers on the season are right there with the frontrunners for the MVP race and from what I can tell, he is being universally praised over the last couple of days for his performances.

I love the following video from Richard Sherman:

Lol. There are three awful genres of tweets. Well, actually, there are a lot more then three. But Sherman has three big ones covered here:

  1. When some player makes a highlight reel play, you'll always hear someone say, "If that were Patrick Mahomes you'd see this replay endlessly for a week," when that highlight is already being shared endlessly. Sherman has a variation of that above with the Mahomes comp, just minus the highlight reel play.
  2. "Put some respect on (fill in a player's name who isn't being disrespected)." 
  3. Spiking the football and claiming some weird internet victory immediately after a player's high point in a season.

In other Niners news, First-Team All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga is done for the season with a torn ACL. Next man up is rookie third-round pick Ji'Ayir Brown.

Last week: 4


2) Cowboys (7-3): DaRon Bland has as many pick-sixes (4) as Davante Adams, DeVonta Smith, Tyler Lockett, DeAndre Hopkins, and Brandon Aiyuk have touchdown receptions. (They all have 4.)

Last week: 3


1) Eagles (8-1): This stat made the rounds after the Eagles' win in Kansas City:

I went back and tried to find those seven games, but only found five. In reverse chronological order:

  1. 11/20/23: Eagles at Chiefs: The Eagles trailed 17-7, won 21-17.
  2. 10/29/23: Eagles at Commanders: The Eagles trailed 14-3, won 38-31.
  3. 10/1/23: Commanders at Eagles: The Eagles trailed 17-7, won 34-31.
  4. 11/20/22: Eagles at Colts: The Eagles trailed 13-3, won 17-16.
  5. 10/2/22: Jaguars at Eagles: The Eagles trailed 14-0, won 29-21. (This game only counts if we're ignoring that the Commanders beat the Eagles 32-21 later that season, but the final score of that game came with no time left on the clock.)
Anyway, whatever. The point is well taken. There was a time when there was a sentiment that Jalen Hurts and the Eagles could not play from behind, but obviously they most certainly can.

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