The Dallas Cowboys have a chance to sew up the NFC East title and get the number two seed in the NFC with a victory over the Washington Commanders on Sunday. The Cowboys are currently 13-point favorites in the game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. To get a little knowledge of what is going on with the Commanders, we turn to our sister site, Hogs Haven.
Blogging The Boys: So is Ron Rivera definitely going to be fired? And if you think there is going to be a change, what coaches have been mentioned either in rumors or just conversations that Washington might pursue?
Hogs Haven: I can’t imagine that Ron Rivera, any assistant coach, or anyone in the front office will have a job on Monday night. And the fan base will be outraged if any of them do.
Rivera has been in Washington for four years and the team has not had a winning record in any season, even in the season in which they backed into the division title (his first year). He inherited a team with the #2 overall pick in the entire draft. Going into the final game of his fourth season, they are slotted to have the #2 pick again. The team’s play on the field has gotten worse and the roster has weakened during his tenure. Rivera doesn’t deserve to remain.
Every conceivable candidate has been mentioned as Washington’s next Head Coach. However, it looks like the new owners are going to do it right this time and hire a strong General Manager who will make the hire of the new HC. During Rivera’s tenure, the team has had a “coach-centric” structure in which he has made the final calls on personnel. As has been the case most of the time in the NFL when that system has been tried, it has failed in Washington. The GM and HC jobs both are complex, 60 hour a week positions that require completely different skill sets. Better to separate them and have two different people work together. Since the GM is going to be higher in the pecking order, that person needs to be hired first.
BTB: Should Washington stick with Sam Howell and use their high draft pick elsewhere, or is it time to go for one of the top QBs in the 2024 draft?
HH: This is a very controversial topic among the fan base, and some think Howell has played well enough to claim the starting spot next season (or at least a crack at it). However, GMs get very few opportunities to select a potential franchise QB with one of the top three picks in the draft. The odds are that the new GM will draft their QB, especially if Washington stays at #2 and the Bears pick someone other than Caleb Williams. However, it is also possible that Washington trades back from their slot in favor of the usual bounty of talent that the top spots bring. The team has so many weaknesses that the team is not just a QB away from success. There is an especially obvious need to repair the offensive line, which is the team’s weakest position group.
It is possible that Howell remains the starter for another year of evaluation. His up-and-down play provides data for all sides of the argument on this. Howell started reasonably well but took a horrifying number of sacks; he was on pace for almost 100 sacks through first seven games of the season. Then things seemed to fall into place with faster processing, better play calling from the OC, and a bit more of a running attack from the pass-happy Eric Bieniemy. Howell cut his sacks in half, to an average of 2.3 per game in the last 9 games. Unfortunately, all his other statistics have been disappointing for the last six games. He hit rock bottom against the Jets, with a disturbing QB Rating of 1.7. He was benched in two of the last three games in favor of veteran Jacoby Brissett, who sparked the offense when Howell could not. That has not helped Howell make the case that the team should entrench him as the starter while using their draft picks to build the team around him.
BTB: In terms of this game, who are some players that you expect to get a long look and may be auditioning for bigger roles in the 2024 season?
HH: There aren’t nearly as many candidates as we’d like. The list starts with the top two draft picks from this year, CB Emmanuel Forbes and FS / Slot Quan Martin. Forbes had a poor first half of the season, but he has played better lately. He had his best game of the season by far last week against San Francisco. Martin has slowly gained starting time and has shown promise as both a Free Safety and as a Slot Corner, and he will probably alternate between those positions on Sunday.
Khaleke Hudson has made the most of his playing time at Will Linebacker since Jamin Davis was injured, ultimately landing on IR. He probably has outplayed Davis, who was their best LB when he was healthy. At DE, 5 th Rounder KJ Henry will get plenty of opportunity; he has flashed at times even though he has not made anyone forget Montez Sweat.
The only players on offense who would have made the list were QB Jacoby Brissett, who might have started had he been healthy, and bruising RB Chris Rodriquez, who is now on IR.
BTB: Do you feel like the organization is all-in on beating Dallas Sunday, or is everything really about next year, including preserving the number 2 draft pick?
HH: There is no appetite among the fan base or (reportedly) ownership for an upset win on Sunday. This season is lost, and the only consolation prize the game might bring is the #2 pick in the draft. Even that will require help from other teams to preserve Washington’s razor-thin strength of schedule tiebreaker advantage over New England.
BTB: The current line according to DraftKings Sportsbook favors Dallas by 13 points. Is that a fair line and how do you think the game will go on Sunday?
HH: All the incentives are in place for Dallas to play hard and win. By contrast, Washington is limping toward season’s end with a depleted roster and has nothing to play for except pride. That’s usually not enough. Washington last won two months ago (November 5) in New England. In the seven games since, they have been blown out 4 times by two touchdowns or more. In two of the others, Jacoby Brissett came off the bench to spark comebacks that made for a closer final score; he probably won’t play on Sunday because of a hamstring that he pulled in practice last week. Anything can happen in NFL games, especially when the teams are division rivals. But I’d say the odds are that Dallas wins in another blowout.
Thanks for the knowledge, Hogs Haven.