The Washington Commanders, much to the surprise of head coach Ron Rivera, were mathematically eliminated from the postseason in Week 17. Washington’s ugly 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, coupled with the victories of the Seattle Seahawks, Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers, led to them missing the playoffs officially.
The Commanders put themselves in a great spot heading into December, as they were 7-5 after Thanksgiving weekend. Alas, that was the last time that Washington won a game, as they have gone winless in their next four games following a stretch in which they went 6-1.
The quarterback for most of that stretch was Taylor Heinicke, who has been a spark plug for Washington whenever he has been called upon to be the starter. His teammates rally around him, but his limitations as a starter are clear the longer he has to play.
The Commanders struggled to score the last few games with Heinicke under center as they could not get it done in the red zone. Looking to jump-start the team, Carson Wentz was re-inserted into the lineup against the Browns.
Wentz was excellent in his first two games as the starter, throwing for seven touchdowns as the team scored 55 points. Washington managed only 57 points in the next five games, which prompted Heinicke to take over after Wentz broke his finger on October 13th. His poor performance against Cleveland last week likely sealed his fate.
Two years are remaining on Wentz’s contract but zero guaranteed dollars. That means the Commanders can cut him with no money being left on the cap, a move that they will likely make. Heinicke was supposed to be the starter against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18 with rookie Sam Howell finishing the game. Alas, they have decided to change course.
According to John Keim of ESPN, Howell will now be under center for the Commanders as the starter against the Cowboys. Howell is someone that Washington wants to get more of a look at after selecting him in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
“The most important thing is we’re really intrigued in seeing what Sam can do in this league,” Rivera said. “The opportunity is going to be a good one for him to go out and play and show us. We won’t judge everything on Sam based on one game. We get an opportunity to see how he prepares.”
Wentz will be inactive, likely ending his tenure with the Commanders after one season. Expect Washington to be in the market for a veteran quarterback as this is a roster capable of competing for a playoff spot with improved play under center. Right now, Howell is the only quarterback that is under contract for the 2023 season, something that will assuredly change once the new league year officially begins.