Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera usually seems to have his finger on the pulse of his team and what’s best in most situations. But Rivera’s latest decision to sit Taylor Heinicke and elevate Carson Wentz back to the starting lineup might be the most absurd move of the year in Washington. Well, on the field, at least. There’s so much happening off the field with this franchise, it’s long past embarrassing.
Where football decisions are concerned, this move by Rivera seems tone-deaf. Like a knee-jerk reaction after being dominated by the hottest team in football, San Francisco. That is a team that’s won eight in a row. So, Washington is hardly alone. Heinicke wasn’t horrible against the 49ers, as he completed over 72 percent of his passes and threw for two touchdowns. He did have one interception, but the Commanders were in this game heading into the fourth quarter down by just seven points.
Washington was able to put up 20 points against the Niners, which is the most San Francisco has given up during this eight-game winning streak. We understand there are no “moral” victories in the NFL. But benching Heinicke after that performance when you can’t say he’s the absolute reason your team lost is ludicrous. Washington simply ran into a better team.
Add the fact that Wentz’s teammates don’t care much for him, which makes this even more puzzling. It’s been the same thing with Wentz going back to Philadelphia. Lack of leadership qualities and him not relating to players in the locker room. If anyone knows how important it is to have the locker room’s respect, it’d be Rivera, a Super Bowl-winning linebacker for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s.
Honestly, it feels like Rivera was looking for a reason to get Wentz back on the field. Is he better than Heinecke? Will the offense improve with Wentz under center? Before fill-in duty against the 49ers on Christmas eve, Wentz hadn’t played in over two months. That was a win in mid-October over the Bears, 12-7, where the former No. 2 overall pick looked terrible. He completed just 55 percent of his passes and posted a 66.3 passer rating.
If this is Rivera’s answer in hopes of holding onto that final NFC wildcard spot, they might as well pack it up now. Placing your fate in the hands of Carson Wentz has not worked out well in the past. You can ask Jim Irsay about that. The Colts owner sounded like he was ready to strangle Wentz after Indianapolis collapsed in Weeks 17 and 18 last season needing just one win to make the postseason. That relationship went sour so fast that Irsay shipped Wentz out after one year.
Clearly, the Commanders have few viable options at the QB position, but Wentz has never been the answer to the riddle. He was very good in Philly briefly but lost the locker room. With Indy, he never had it, and the same seems apparent in Washington. Having the Browns to come back against could be a silver lining, but if there’s a way to screw this up, Wentz will find it.