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The Commanders’ Playoff Hopes Now Rest With Carson Wentz

Carson Wentz
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Carson Wentz is back behind center for the Washington Seven & Sevens, and before you ask "Why?" in that befuddled whiny voice you affect when something unimportant confuses you, it's because Ron Rivera hates his quarterback no matter who it is.

In truth, most NFL coaches hate their quarterback because so few of them are Patrick Mahomes, Joe Burrow, Josh Allen, Dak Prescott or Justin Herbert—in fact, only five of them, to be honest. And no, we are not including Geno Smith, Jared Goff, or Trevor Lawrence on general principle because 7-8 doth not a great season make no matter how much better their teams are than they should have been, so un-ball that fist, Vince Lombardi. Take your good luck and staple your cakehole shut.

But Carson Wentz is a different choice because of his unique résumé of what hasn't been and what may never be, a fallback position for teams that have already fallen down but still have to play out the schedule. He is among a small army of starters/backups whose main achievement is to make people's faces implode like an orange collapsing under a heat lamp.

Some coaches change their starter every other week (Jeff Saturday, Robert Saleh), some have had bad injury luck (Sean McVay, Kliff Kingsbury, John Harbaugh), some have been undone by their front offices (Kevin Stefanski, Mike Vrabel), some can't figure out the vagaries of the human head (Mike McDaniel), some have taken a bad situation and made it worse and on the road to worse yet (Josh McDaniels), some have clung to veterans who are nearing their sell-by date but refuse to acknowledge it (Todd Bowles, Matt LaFleur), and some have simply been abandoned and pointed toward the door (Matt Rhule, Nathaniel Hackett).

Only one has beaten the system by not playing along within its strictures, and that is Captain Last Century, Kyle Shanahan. He has decided to solve the quarterback problem by making the quarterback the fourth or fifth most important player on the team, and that's probably giving the 49er quarterback du jour all the best of it.

We needn't walk you through the tortured road Shanahan has taken to reach the place where he is today, with Josh Johnson a heartbeat away from a Super Bowl, because this is no time of year to make a quarterback out of a running game and a defense. Shanahan was onto this formula four years ago, and his massive indecisions about his quarterback have not beaten him because of his  workaround with Deebo Samuel and then Christian McCaffrey, George Kittle, and a defense of profound cleverness and malice. Ain't nobody making that happen in Washington yet, so it's Carson Wentz ... again.

The only reason Rivera's world-weary decision to exchange Heinicke for Wentz again isn't a terrible idea is because the league has seven teams you can watch, 15 you watch just because they haven't been eliminated yet, nine you wouldn't watch if the alternative was standing naked at a Buffalo bus stop, and the Minnesota Vikings, whom you have to watch just to see when Kevin O'Connell goes to his back pocket for this week's arse-flavored horseshoe. The Commanders do not work with that level of luxury, so they are trotting out Wentz as just another Trace McSorley, Desmond Ridder, Tyler Huntley, Sam Darnold, Jacoby Brissett, Davis Mills (or Kyle Allen), Nick Foles, Jarred Stidham, Teddy Bridgewater, Bailey Zappe, Andy Dalton, Mike White, Kenny Pickett or Malik Willis. It's a playbook, an encouraging pat. and a Ready or not, here's your center, pal, and then a performance that is far more often one of disappointment and cries for more change. The only backups who have yet to annoy their fan bases are Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy, and that's because they are more like police dispatchers than homicide detectives.

Anyway, Carson Wentz at home for Cleveland and then Dallas, against a team that isn't going to the playoffs and one that has been a playoff team for weeks. We'd urge you to spare a thought for Washington football fans, but they know that this is what they deserve because it's what the team deserves and will continue to deserve until they learn the truest art of creating quarterback value. Making them semi-relevant even if it means playing Mister Irrelevant with Josh Johnson in the wings.

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