These are confusing times for fans of leaders. Wins are bad, losses are good, quarterbacks are sitting on the bench, and assistant coaches have already been fired.
As the new year approaches, there are a lot of confusing and competing scenarios being played out in Washington. To help ease the anxiety of a once again confused fan base, we imagine how an AI chatbot could answer some big questions about the team's future.
Let's start with the biggest news of the week. Leaders coach Ron Rivera officially announced Wednesday that the team will bench sophomore Sam Howell to install Jacoby Brissett at quarterback.
Q: Why did the leaders sit on Howell's bench? Wasn't this supposed to be the future?
A: For months, Rivera talked about Howell as the future of the franchise, but in reality, that was likely premature. Howell has had some great moments this season but his play over the past month has deteriorated to the point where he has been a liability on the pitch and has been benched in each of the last two games. In the last four games, Howell has thrown just one touchdown to five interceptions. He has completed just 46% of his passes in that period, all losses for the leaders. Another issue for Howell is that Brissett excelled when he came in to assume the relief role. In less than a full game of work, Brissett completed nearly 80% of his passes and threw three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Q: Is it fair for Howell to sit on the bench? Is this all his fault?
A: Fairness is a human emotion. Chatbot only deals with facts. Howell has certainly played well in spells this season and given fans a lot to cheer about, especially his success in off-schedule games. But his play last month seems “unfair” to the other Washington players on the field. It's also important to note that this is only Hall's first year as an NFL starter and he has never played this many games in a season, playing a pass-happy system, and has never thrown this many passes in a season. He also never took as many sacks or anywhere near the physical bombardment received behind the Leaders' porous offensive line. It's possible that his body and mind were taking all they could. Assigning fault or blame is difficult for a computer system, but Howell certainly harbors some of that. There were also a lot of issues impacting the Commanders offense, including but not limited to: poor line play, not enough run/pass credit, questionable play calling, roster construction, receiver decline.
Q: With a 4-11 record and only two games remaining, is it okay for the Leaders to lose?
A: Yes. It may be difficult for some fans to see the big picture while their team is on the field, but with the playoffs coming weeks early and only two games remaining, Washington is better off losing. This would give the Commanders a final record of 4-13 and at least guarantee a top-4 draft pick in a rookie class full of interesting options.
Q: Does a top draft pick guarantee success?
A: No. A higher pick only guarantees a greater chance of getting the top target on Washington's draft board, or retaining more value if the Chiefs look to trade the pick. No matter where the selection is, it still requires talent evaluators to make the right choice.
Q: Who will he choose?
A: Leaders currently employ a “coach-centric” approach, meaning Ron Rivera has the final say on personnel matters. The front office, led by Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney, has a lot of influence as well. But when the season ends in two weeks, most NFL insiders expect dramatic changes in Washington. Josh Harris' ownership group will be tasked with naming a new president of football, and this looms as the most important decision for the future of the franchise. The 2024 presidential election won't be the only important decision in D.C. next year.
Q: What's going on with Sam Howell?
A: It's entirely possible, if not likely, for a young quarterback to remain on the roster. He is under contract for two more seasons on favorable terms, and at various points this season Howell has shown enormous promise. But it's entirely possible, if not likely, that Washington will draft a new first-round QB in the spring. Maybe that means quarterback competition or maybe it means Howell is the alternative. It is too early to tell. The paradigm is sure to change in the QB room.
Q: What about Jacoby Brissett?
A: He only signed a one-year contract with Washington. Brissett will be a smart, veteran player who plays good football, will be an unrestricted free agent in March and will likely have several suitors.
Q: What about the rest of the list? The rest of the staff?
A: Usually when there is a regime change in the NFL, most of the building is flipped. That means players, coaches, front offices and some non-football employees. Given that Harris' group took control of the organization in late July, just a week before training camp opened, their hands were largely tied operationally. Now, after watching the entire season, Harris should have a much better idea of what works and certainly what doesn't.
Q: One last question, how annoying are Cowboys fans?
A: The most annoying. In fact, our research shows that most of them have never been to Texas before.
Editor's Note: Any issues with answers should definitely be taken up with our fictional leaders, not JP Finlay.
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