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The Commanders Went Home Stinky And Demoralized

Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) and head coach Ron Rivera stand for the national anthem prior to action against the Philadelphia Eagles at FedEx Field on October 29, 2023.
Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Nobody expected the Washington Commanders to immediately become a competent and successful NFL franchise upon finally being released from Dan Snyder's nasty little clutches this past July. Change takes time. Success is a process. Blah blah blah. And yet, the team must have hoped that Snyder's departure would have immediately cut down on the number of embarrassing stories that became a hallmark of Washington football over the years. They might have hoped, for example, to at least be able to shower after a humiliating home loss to the New York Giants.

The Commanders were defeated 31-19 on Sunday by a Giants team that came in 2-8 and quarterbacked by a Sopranos extra who lives with his parents. And then they were forced to stew in their own stink. When both teams returned to their respective locker rooms after the game, they found that there was no hot water available. A Commanders spokesperson later confirmed that a plumbing issue was to blame, telling reporters, "We had an equipment failure in the main water heater that provides hot water to the field level locker rooms. We can’t resolve the matter without completely shutting off the water to the stadium, which is why it couldn’t be repaired in game.”

The Commanders really needed to wash off that performance, too. Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito, a third-stringer who was scarcely allowed to attempt forward passes in his two previous games, diced up the Commanders' secondary for 246 yards and three touchdowns. The Commanders out-gained the Giants on the ground and in the air, sacked DeVito nine times, and achieved 15 more first downs than their opponents. They also turned the ball over six times, which goes all the way towards explaining how they lost a game they should have won easily by such a wide margin.

Head coach Ron Rivera called Sunday's loss a "low point," and spent most of his postgame press conference parrying the kinds of questions that coaches receive when their firing is imminent. He was asked at one point how he could defend the team currently sitting at 4-7 in the fourth season of his tenure, to which he replied, "If I answer a question like that, I'm making an excuse. It'll get out there, I don't need to deal with it."

The thing about Snyder finally leaving Washington and taking his endless supply of oafish organizational missteps and stomach-churning scandals with him is that all the attention he commanded has to be directed elsewhere. Right now it's being directed at the fact that the Commanders seem well on their way to a fourth consecutive season under Rivera without a winning record. This is a team that got beat by the Giants twice and lost at home to the Bears, and whose future appears to he pinned on a second-year quarterback who was drafted in the fifth round and can't stop getting sacked.

This is not a very good football team, in other words, and on Thursday they will most likely demonstrate that fact to a national audience when they travel to Dallas to play in a Thanksgiving game. With every week that passes and every loss that piles up, the good feelings that carried this team into the season following Snyder's departure become harder and harder to locate. It's great that the Commanders are no longer the most dysfunctional and malevolent franchise in the NFL based solely on who their owner is, but shedding those labels means there are now actual expectations to fulfill. The work of becoming a respectable football team started the moment Snyder walked out the door, and that work has gone slowly so far.

The Commanders' new ownership regime did make one stride forward yesterday, in offering the fanbase something that's always needed after a particularly humiliating loss: a figurehead at which to direct all of their anger and annoyance. After the loss, Commanders minority owner Magic Johnson went on Twitter to say, "Wow! My Washington Commanders turned the ball over six times today and gave the Giants 24 points off turnovers. We lost 31-19." Great. Thank you sir. Please get a real quarterback and a new head coach in here.

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