Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Carson Wentz (11) prior to a game at FedEx Field
Photo by Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Riverboat Ron’s Biggest Gamble Yet: Bashing the QB He Wanted


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The Washington Commanders are having a challenging season. Through five weeks, the former Redskins with the worst record in the league, 1-4. They have company in the 1-4 club--four other teams (Panthers, Lions, Raiders, Steelers) have the joy of sharing the losing record with Washington.

So who's to blame for the relentless losing? If you ask coach Ron Rivera, it's Carson Wentz.

The Trade That Brought Wentz to Washington

Carson Wentz #11 of the Washington Commanders celebrates a two point conversion during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars

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Wentz, the quarterback Washington eagerly traded for in hopes of leading the Commanders, is now being used as a scapegoat for all of Washington's woes. Quite the turnaround for the quarterback who felt unwanted in Indy, but ultimately found himself being fancied by Rivera and the Washington Commanders, culminating in a widely debated trade. 

The trade deal with the Indianapolis Colts brought Wentz to Washington in exchange for the Commanders 2022 second- and third-round selections and a conditional 2023 pick. Could the 2023 condition be the method to coach Rivera's madness in publicly criticizing Wentz? The trade stipulation states that the Colts' 2023 pick will turn into a second-rounder if Wentz takes 70%, or more, of the snaps this season. 

The Commanders' failure to command the field this season could be conveniently laid at Wentz's feet. Rivera could be laying the foundation for saving a second-round selection and limiting Wentz's snaps. Or, he could be flailing and in his understandable frustration, damaging a relationship with the very quarterback he wanted to bring to Washington last year.

Coach Rivera's Public Criticism Of His Quarterback

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 On Monday--a mere three days before the Commanders face the Bears on Thursday Night Football--Coach Ron Rivera was asked, "Why do you think the teams in the division are farther ahead at this point?" Ron Rivera's response: "Quarterback." 

It's not a good look for the coach to so easily point a finger at the quarterback. Many NFL voices expressed their shock over Rivera's ease at throwing Wentz under the bus. 

Former Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III took to Twitter to express his displeasure with coach Rivera's comment. The former Heisman Trophy winner and Pro-Bowl QB wrote, "You NEVER do this to your Quarterback. The difference between Washington and the rest of the division is Coaching. Daniel Jones has a 1st time Head Coach and they look the best they have in YEARS. The Cowboys have gone undefeated with their BACK UP QB. Coaching matters."

Alex Smith, another former quarterback who knows a thing or two about playing in Washington, said on the "Monday Night Countdown" show: "When I heard it, I couldn't believe it...This is a defensive head coach that is absolutely driving the bus over his quarterback."

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NFL analyst Mina Kimes called out Coach Rivera on ESPN's First Take for not only his statement on Wentz, but for the fact that his response was inaccurate--quarterbacks aren't the determining factor for success in his division. 

Accountability

Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders looks on against the Tennessee Titans during the second half of the game at FedExField

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Rivera is claiming to have taken accountability for his flippant response on Monday, telling the media he apologized to the team for the distraction. "I basically told them I said some things that were misconstrued," Coach Ron Rivera said. "I didn't present it properly, and that's on me."

I'm not sure saying your words were misconstrued is exactly an apology. How can you misconstrue a single word answer? "Quarterback" seems pretty clear to me. You're telling me that a man who has been in the league since his years as a linebacker and Super Bowl XX champ with the 1985 Chicago Bears doesn't know how to handle this better? I call bs. Rivera may be sorry for how this whole ordeal has made him look, but he meant what he said--he just wishes he hadn't blurted out what he was thinking. 

Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless broke down the apology recently on Undisputed and Sharpe shares my sentiment. "Ron Rivera is sorry he said this out loud but this is what he thinks. Washington has a lot of issues, not just Wentz. Rivera was wrong and I'm sure Wentz is hurt by it."

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The truth of the matter is that Ron Rivera may be the issue. After all, the fish rots from the head. It's time for the coach to take some real accountability for losses in Washington.  

Carson Wentz, despite the team's L, falls in the top five for passing yards in the entire league--Wentz finds himself with Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Justin Herbert and Josh Allen. That's quite the company for a quarterback being publicly thrown under the bus by his coach. 

It's Inevitable: A Change is Going to Come

Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders speaks with quarterback Carson Wentz #11 during the first half of the game against the Tennessee Titans at FedExField

Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

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The Commanders have a lot going wrong for them this season and only time will tell if Wentz or Rivera loses their role over the atrocious start in Washington. One thing is certain--if the Chicago Bears claw their way to a win against the Commanders, something's got to change for the Washington football club. 

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The Commanders could turn to their backup quarterback, Taylor Heinicke. The backup started 15 games last season for Washington and has the experience to helm the ship. Heinicke stepped up for both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Alex Smith in the past and could undoubtedly do it again if called upon. 

There's also the rumor that Rivera's former quarterback Cam Newton could be meeting with the club. This could be pure twitter gossip, but crazier things have happened mid-season. The fact remains that without improvements to the defense and o-line, the Commanders' failings will continue. It requires a collapse in multiple roles for a football team to find themselves 1-4.

Coaching is the other elephant in the room. We've already seen an early season firing in Carolina. After an embarrassing 37-15 loss Sunday in Week 5, the Panthers didn't even wait a full 24 hours to terminate their head coach Matt Rhule. If I were Rivera, I'd be anxious about grabbing a win Thursday night, especially since his time with the Commanders may rely on their upcoming performance. 

The irony of Rivera bringing Wentz to Washington only to publicly shame him and potentially threaten his tenure there isn't lost on me. The gamble may come back to haunt him. 

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A four-game losing streak, 1-4 season start, foot-in-mouth media circus, and unsuccessful 15-23 record in his three seasons with Washington is arguably enough reason to replace Rivera. Is this the face you want for a franchise? Rivera may have successfully distracted fans with his "Quarterback" comment, but fans are growing impatient, and I'm inclined to believe Washington management is too. 

Tune into TNF on Prime to see if the Commanders can rise above the week's Rivera drama, or if the Chicago Bears can knock over the final wobbly domino for Washington--and watch it all fall apart. 

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