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Why Your Team Sucks

Why Your Team Sucks 2023: Washington Commanders

Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders looks on prior to a game against the Atlanta Falcons at FedExField on November 27, 2022 in Landover, Maryland.
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Some people are fans of the Washington Commanders. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Washington Commanders. This 2023 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.

Your team: Washington Redsk—Commanders! Yes Commanders, that’s what we call them! We’re leaving all of that behind!

That is so true. It’s very, very hard to escape all of the bad things that this organization does by choice. Been that way for decades now. Tradition!

Your 2022 record: 8-8-1. It sounds inaccurate to describe any Washington season as “low-key embarrassing.” But at 8-8-1, and with the Broncos, Colts, and Cardinals occupying every floor of the Suck House, this was a feat that the newly-christened Commanders were able to pull off with frightening ease. It helped that Washington opted for the most anodyne rebrand that they could find in the Marshalls checkout line, and that their owner disappeared himself from the premises late in the year after being compelled, at long last, to sell this piece of shit club. But let’s not give the Commanders TOO much credit for being respectable. Because they weren’t.

Is that Carson Wentz I see? Yes. Did the Commanders trade actual draft picks to get him? Yes. Did Wentz dress up after games like an Oklahoman who thinks the ‘95 swing revival is still going on? Yes. Is Wentz now out of the league? YES… HA HA HA… YES!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s slow roll this back to Week 1, when the Commanders beat a Jacksonville team that would go on to win its division. Mildly good vibrations abounded. The game after that, they spotted Detroit a 22-0 halftime lead before losing. The next game, they spotted Philadelphia a 24-0 halftime lead before losing. In fact, they’d lose four in a row after that opener, including a thrashing at the hands of Cooper Rush, along with the game-losing pick against Tennessee that you see embedded up above.

All of that happened with Wentz at the helm, because why wouldn’t it have? No one was stupid enough to defend this guy, with one vital exception …

Wentz would go on to defeat a tanking Bears team while throwing for a mighty 99 yards and breaking his finger. He was replaced the following week by living legend Taylor Heinicke, who would start the next nine games and win five of them. Yes, Heinicke threw a decisive pick to lose to Minnesota in Kirk Cousins’s homecoming game. And he tied the Giants, rested with his teammates for the bye week, and then lost to the Giants in a game where Washington was outgained 408-288. And he was outdueled by wondershrimp Brock Purdy, getting himself benched in the fourth quarter.

But this is Taylor Heinicke we’re talking about here. Letting Taytay cook is the reason Washington beat the undefeated Eagles midseason. Shit, he’s the reason they were still in the playoff hunt at the turn of the New Year! All the Commanders had to do was beat Cleveland at home to stay alive, and NOT bench Heinicke in favor of Wentz. Let see if they pulled it off!

But wait! The Commanders could STILL remain alive after that loss, provided Minnesota could beat Green Bay later that night. And you better believe their head coach was right on top of that:

“We can be eliminated?” Rivera asked in his postgame news conference. “(If it happens), it'll be disappointing.”

And it was. This is the kind of season you get when the NFL sends out every possible signal that they want your owner out, and when you rank 30th in turnovers per drive, and when your franchise edge rusher plays only three games, and when your coach vehemently defends Wentz one minute while singling him out as the root of all your problems the next, and when you honor Sean Taylor (again) in the most half-assed way possible (again), and when the best storyline you can think of all season long is, Our running back just got shot twice in the leg, but is now averaging 3.9 yards a carry! All of this feels familiar to you, and I promise it will remain familiar for a while.

Your coach: OK, this is the funny part. Your coach is still Ron Rivera, who was hired to put a friendly face on the Comms while the feds scanned Dan Snyder’s mega-yacht with a subatomic black light. With Snyder in charge, anyone working under him could become well-liked simply by not being a psychotic, abusive, autocratic dwarf. Strangely, many Commanders players, coaches, and executives still couldn’t check off that box. Rivera could. But with Snyder now gone, everyone is quickly remembering, "Hey wait, our coach is a moron!”

To Rivera's credit, he fired offensive coordinator Son Of Norv after the season and replaced him with former Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy: an actual coach who can do actual coach stuff. And boy was Rivera surprised by what actual coaches do. More surprised than he was about how playoff tiebreakers work!

Rivera said some players were "a little concerned" with how hard Bieniemy was riding them… “I think (defensive coordinator) Jack (Del Rio) has a tendency to try to figure guys out a little bit more as opposed to, 'Hey, this is it, this is the way it's going to be,' that type of stuff. Eric hasn't had that experience yet." 

Wait, you mean you can push your guys to do their jobs better? And that you probably shouldn’t compare Eric Bieniemy—the 21st-century poster child for discriminatory hiring practices across the entire league—unfavorably to Jack fucking Del Rio? Well, no one told Ron any of that. Only took him 11 seasons of being a head coach, three of them winning, to figure out those pearls of wisdom. He is now chastened:

Washington Commanders coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday that "I put my foot in my mouth" when discussing Eric Bieniemy's intensity Tuesday, insisting he did not want to portray his players as soft or the first-year offensive coordinator as too demanding. Rivera said he told Bieniemy on Tuesday that what he said, "wasn't as clear as it needed to be."

I think we know who the real head coach of this team is. I think we also know why Bieniemy left a premier organization in Kansas City for this dump: because he knows that everything here is set up for his boss to fail so that he can quickly replace him. Need proof?

Your quarterback: Sam Howell. A return to glory is right around the corner!

Sam Howell was drafted in the fifth round in 2022 as part of a QB crop that the entire league found wanting. Even teams that desperately needed a QB that spring, and had the option to draft Howell in the earlier rounds. were like, Ew, no.

But the Commanders saw in Howell something that the others teams didn’t: a cheap placeholder QB to throw into the boar pen while new ownership spends the season Lysol-ing the stink out of the joint. I have lived here for 20 years and been sold a range of new and expensive saviors ranging from Steve Spurrier to Adam Archuleta. I know knockoff merchandise when I see it. Sam Howell is a discount Baker Mayfield. He’ll never amount to a goddamn thing.

Behind Howell is Jacoby Brissett. Which one of those guys do you think will start more games this coming season?

What’s new that sucks: DAN SNYDER IS DEAD! HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY! Bells are ringing, children singing! I’m hardly the first to say this, but nothing that happens on the field this year will matter to this city, because Snyder is finally out of the paint. Let’s meet the new owner!

Oh, goddammit. OK well look, Josh Harris also roped in Magic Johnson as a minority owner in his bid, so that’s a good sign.

Photo via Magic Johnson

Fucking goddammit again! But look, anyone is an upgrade over Snyder, even if Josh Harris is a private equity leech who lands helicopters directly on top of sick orphans and wants to bulldoze Chinatown in Philly to build an arena that his Sixers don’t need. He’s also openly toyed with the idea of moving the Comms from Bumblefuck, Md. to Bumblefuck, Va. Oh, and he needed extra minority partners, and he needed the NFL to loosen up its lending restrictions, just so that he could afford to buy this team at all. So we’re looking at a guy who is both cheap and amoral, and has never won a title with any of the other professional sports teams that he owns.

But again: not Dan Snyder. Also not Brian Davis. So yay.

While everyone within the Commanders organization knew a sale was imminent starting around November, Harris wasn’t formally approved by the league as the new owner until late last month. That meant that Washington couldn’t make any significant moves during the offseason—hence your new starting quarterback—and that Harris didn’t have time to clean out the place before opening weekend. So all of Snyder’s handiwork remains in place for 2023, including Rivera, team president Jason Wright, general manager Martin Mayhew, and a collective yearning for the acceptable racisms of days gone by.

With that in mind, let’s check out what’s going on with the roster. After the season, the Commanders shed dead weight like Wentz, G Andrew Norwell, C Chase Roullier, S Bobby McCain, C Wes Schweitzer, RG Trai Turner, and (not him!!!) Heinicke. In their place is a pallet of NEW dead weight, including Brissett, WR Byron Pringle, C Nick Gates, RT Andrew Wylie, and K Michael Badgley. The Commanders' fortunes in 2023 will rest on Howell (ha), a still-incredible defensive line, and a secondary that was fortified with tentative reinforcements in the draft with ballhawks in CB Emmanuel Forbes and S Jartavius Martin. And hey, guess who’s feeling better than ever after missing 22 games over the past two seasons!

Somewhere out of frame is Mike Shanahan hiding behind a bush and wielding a switchblade.

Why the players think you suck: The Commanders ranked DFL in the NFLPA survey, with more Fs than Albert Burneko's high school report card. Their players hate the training room, they hate the team plane, they hate the locker room, they think the team showers are an incubator for staph, and they hate the weight room. But they LOVE the strength coaches. If I’ve learned anything from these report cards, it’s that NFL players love strength coaches unconditionally. You find any buzzcut willing to scream, I’LL KICK YOU IN THE JIMMY IF YOU DON’T GET THIS REP! at players and they’re happier than hogs in shit.

What has always sucked: Let’s say that Josh Harris is as your imagination advertised. He gets rid of all the stooges, enablers, and shitbags still hanging around Ashburn. He moves the team back to the old RFK site in DC. He builds a nice stadium with good sightlines, deafening acoustics, and bouncing stands. He changes the team’s nickname to something cooler and sticks with it. He promotes Bieniemy to head coach, brings in a general manager who knows what they’re doing, and snags Caleb Williams. He wins not just one Super Bowl, but many of them. He makes D.C. a football town again. Let’s say he does all of that.

Now let’s say that I don’t want any of that to happen.

Because I know what the glory days here produced: fans who were entitled as shit, no-show radio gigs for any player with half a ring, and local legends who were appalling idiots (Joe Theismann, Mark Schlereth, Sonny Jurgensen, etc). If you think Dan Snyder was God visiting his wrath upon an innocent fanbase, well how do you think Dan Snyder came to be in the first place? It’s no coincidence he grew up a fan of this organization. He’s one of you. He's ALL of you.

So Washington fans deserved Snyder. All 23 years and change of him. They deserved Jeff George. They deserved Spurrier. They deserved Jimmy Zorn. They deserved Sherm Lewis getting hauled out of a bingo parlor to call plays. They deserved Larry Michael. They deserved that urinal of a stadium. They deserved the Dead Tree Crew and other bro-skins who heard about Snyder’s secret cheerleader tapes and jerked off at the mere prospect of watching them. They deserved all of that, and if Harris gives them a reason to be proud again, they’ll deserve another 23 years of disgrace.

So fuck this team. Keep their dumb name. Keep Rivera wandering around the sidelines, like he’s in a nursing home and can’t remember where he put his favorite magazine. Keep a revolving door of failed quarterbacks. Keep FedEx. Keep the current fanbase of exurban white trash. Keep it all, because I was never happier than when this team fucked itself with a broken arrow. Snyder was the symptom. The rest of you are the disease.

Also, Washington Football Team was an idiotic name. Leave the soccer shit for soccer. Jesus Christ.

Ratto says: Everything that can be said to besmirch this team has already been said, and not just in the above paragraphs. If they bring back the old nickname, Snyder will have been vindicated. But hey, as Ron Rivera said, Just so everybody knows, we do that with the utmost respect for the native tribes and for the American Indian. We hope he gargled with gasoline after having to tell that whopper.

What might not suck: The end of Snyder will be worth at least two extra wins this season. I’m not kidding about that. Those fans are gonna be fucking levitating.

HEAR IT FROM COMMANDERS FANS!

Howie:

We need to light it all on fire.

Woody:

I survived 24 seasons of Dan Snyder. Nothing you say can hurt me.

Bobby:

I'm not complaining; I just wanna know what Satan expects in return.

Brandon:

If we go 0-17 it will still be the best season in 25 years. 

Michael:

They’ve forced me to celebrate a billionaire buying the team, and I hate billionaires. 

Justin:

This is the sole highlight of my entire fandom for this team, Drew. Pretty goddamn sad.

Jon:

Went to a Washington game last year with my girlfriend and a couple of other people. The girl sitting next to us was a good friend of a prominent young Washington player. Assuming that we were skeptical, she produced photos and it turns out that they were from the same hometown. Her brother was even a high school teammate.

Unfortunately, this girl turned out to be the most insufferable woman of all time. She made several Instagram videos during the game where she didn't mind rapping the n-word. I am black, as is my girlfriend, so it didn't really seem like that big of a deal because this girl looked black as well. At some point we remarked about the black culture in DC, trying to start some sort of an actual conversation. Her response: "Oh I'm not black, I'm Italian."

James:

For years fans convinced themselves this was our Super Bowl, but it's not. It's just a bad person collecting a huge check for running our team into the ground, destroying our self-respect and revealing that we're all suckers for being abused.

Josh Harris and Company don't even need to try. They could get 10 years of love just for not being Dan Snyder. I think that's more or less what will happen.

The stadium still sucks and was selected entirely because no fans are happy going there. Everyone on the team other than Jon Allen, Terry McLaurin and Daron Payne can consider themselves looking for a new job in the offseason.

James:

Rooting for this team is like going to your shittiest cousin's wedding.

Brandon:

If I could name three quarterbacks that I hate more than Carson Wentz, they’d be all from the same damn team I’ve been rooting for my whole life. 

Dave:

They literally have no fans left. 

Sam:

I have spent years trying to replace them in my fan brain and am dragged back to every time they score a touchdown. 

Nicolas:

I went to the Baltimore/Skins OT game last year and had the pleasure of sitting next to a girl celebrating her 21st birthday. She not only screeched "R-J-3" the entire game, she asked to pass by my family about 15-20 times, until I finally said, "No, climb over the seat.” For her final act, she rested her nachos at her feet, threw up a bit into the nachos, forgot that it happened, and started eating them again about half an hour later. Fuck our fans. We suck.

Bob:

I'm sure Brad from Manassas will be happy to tell you that Dan Snyder's a pussy for caving on the name change and that Larry Michael is a victim of Cancel Culture.

Canaan:

I fully expect the DC city government to write a blank check to Harris to, "bring football back to DC," even though they haven't demonstrated bringing football into Maryland yet. 

Zach:

*Magic Johnson’s Twitter voice*

The Washington Commanders are a football team that plays near Washington DC, which stands for the District of Columbia. Columbia is also a country in South America where cocaine comes from. I am excited for this Commanders season, where quarterback Sam Howell will throw to receivers Terry Maclaurin and Jahan Dotson. Several different people will run the ball!

Liam:

Since I started watching football, the best quarterback this team has had was Kirk fucking Cousins.

James:

You just know that Jack Del Rio has social media accounts that he keeps under a pseudonym, and that they're even worse.

RS:

The Snyder-is-finally-fucking-gone honeymoon will feel great until November, when the Commies are 4-6 and headed toward yet another late season collapse or wild card playoff exit.

Kyle:

Very excited for the new owner. I eagerly await to be disappointed by the team in new and different ways I hadn't previously experienced.

Michael:

Washington football is like The Simpsons: a once-storied franchise reduced to a zombie state, fans embarrassed to admit they still watch, and a weird refusal to retire a problematic Indian.

Brandon:

I truly never thought this day would come. Instead of remembering any guys or offering any sort of analysis about what’s coming this season, I just want to point out the biggest difference, to me, between this season and the last. I have hope in this organization again. The curse of rooting for this team seems slightly less futile. I’ll take that. For now. 

Jordan:

I’m 26 and I have loved this team my entire life, because I am a fucking idiot. I chose them when I was in elementary school when all the smart kids were bandwagoning the Patriots or the Ravens. This is because they were the local team and I guess the raw star power of Jason Campbell was impossible to resist. I could’ve chosen either of my parents favorite teams (the Giants and 49ers), who have in my lifetime 20 playoff wins, four Super Bowl appearances, and two Super Bowl wins. But I didn’t since, again, I’m a fucking idiot.

I’ve watched almost every game since about 2007, which means I’ve faithfully watched 15 or so years of the most wretched, awful, hopeless football imaginable. I watched a series of coaches all fail to turn it around. I fell in love with a few stars trapped here and trying to make things better (London Fletcher deserves to be in the HOF just for dealing with this organization for as long as he did). I watched fans delude themselves into thinking the next shiny object would solve all the organization’s problems. I have seen an unironic analysis of how Garrett Gilbert was an ideal starter in Scott Turner’s system.

But over the last few years, things have started to look up. Not on the field, where the product has settled into a sort of turgid competence, but as the pressure ratcheted up on Snyder and the NFL was forced to consider removing him. I finally gained a fellow fan my age when one of my friends took an edible, watched 60 minutes of Carson Wentz spraying footballs in every direction, and apparently decided that the Commies were his favorite team. I told him multiple times that this was a bad idea. He still stuck with it.

AND NOW THE COMMIES FINALLY HAVE A NEW OWNER BABY THE WAIT IS OVER. I DONT GIVE A SHIT THAT HES FROM PHILLY. I DONT GIVE A SHIT THAT HES AN ASSHOLE. I NEVER HAVE TO THINK ABOUT DAN FUCKING SNYDER EVER AGAIN THANK GOD. I’M FREE. THIS TEAM IS GOING TO WIN THE DIVISION. THEY ARE GOING TO STOMP THE COWBOYS IN THE PLAYOFFS. THEY ARE GOING TO WIN THE FUCKING SUPER BOWL. SAM HOWELL IS THE SECOND COMING OF TOM BRADY. FUCK YOU FUCK ME COMMIES ARE GOING UNDEFEATED FUCKING BOOK IT.

FUCK VINNY CERRATO.

FUCK BRUCE ALLEN.

FUCK JIM ZORN.

FUCK REX GROSSMAN, JOHN BECK, DONOVAN MCNABB, RG3, KIRK COUSINS, COLT MCCOY, ALEX SMITH, CASE KEENUM, JOSH JOHNSON, MARK SANCHEZ, KYLE ALLEN, AND CARSON WENTZ.

FUCK THE NEPO BABY FRAUDS SCOTT TURNER AND KYLE SHANAHAN.

FUCK FEDEX FIELD WITH A BROKEN SEWER PIPE.

FUCK RALJON MARYLAND.

FUCK THE DALLAS-FORT WORTH METROPOLITAN AREA.

FUCK ME FOR CARING ABOUT THIS TEAM.

AND OF COURSE FUCK DAN SNYDER. MY BIGGEST REGRET ABOUT THE TITANIC SUB CRUMPLING LIKE A TIN CAN WAS THAT HE WASN’T ON IT. I HOPE HIS FUCKING CLIMATE-DESTROYING YACHT RUNS AGROUND IN THE MEDITERANNEAN AND THE GREEK COAST GUARD REFUSES TO RESCUE HIM.

I fucking hate football.

Submissions for the NFL previews are now closed. Next up: Pittsburgh Steelers.

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