- - Sunday, November 19, 2023

LANDOVER — I saw Washington Commanders chief blunder officer Jason Wright in the elevator at FedEx Field before the game against the New York Giants, and it reminded me of one thing he said in an interview with a website called “Boardroom” at the Super Bowl in February.

“We righted the ship, and now that ship is ready to go on a championship voyage,” Wright said.

Typically, at this point in the column, I might quote the great NBA player Michael Ray Richardson, whose place in history will forever be cemented with these words: “The ship be sinking.”

But no, that doesn’t accurately describe the USS Commanders after Sunday’s embarrassing 31-19 loss to the Giants before a sold-out crowd of their fans and their opponents’ fans, some of whom presumably made the trip from the New York metropolitan area to watch a 2-6 football team that was an 8½ point underdog.

The Commanders rewarded the New Yorkers who made the trek to Landover on Sunday by coughing up three interceptions and three lost fumbles, and making practice squad quarterback Jersey Tommy DeVito look like Eli Manning playing the Patriots.

The rookie passer completed 18 of 26 passes for 246 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 137.7 quarterback rating.

The ship be sinking? No, no, the remains of this vessel are already at the bottom of the Potomac. They are sending divers down to salvage the relics — Ron Rivera’s Sam Howell shield of deflection, Eric Bieniemy’s Waffle House menu of high-powered play-calling, and Jack Del Rio’s Twitter account.

This is the kind of loss that typically costs people with a coaching record of 26-34-1 in four seasons (4-7 this year, 0-4 in the NFC East) their jobs — especially if you are the new owners who paid $6 billion for this team and want people to show up for the final three home games.

But it’s a short week, with the Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys (who have beaten the Giants by a combined score of 89-17 in their two meetings this year, including 49-17 before Sunday’s game) in Dallas coming up Thursday. Firing people at this stage may just result in more debris floating under the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

The pilgrims may save Ron Rivera.

“Sometimes you win them, sometimes you lose,” Rivera told reporters after the game.

Good Time Ronnie’s got the blues.

“They are professionals, too,” he said, a little loose with the “too” reference after his team turned the ball over six times.

“We can’t turn the ball over and we can’t allow those type of explosive plays,” Rivera said.

It wouldn’t be professional.

It’s been a charade ever since Rivera was hired following the 2019 season. He arrived with a 76-63-1 record after nine years in charge of the Carolina Panthers, but he had a losing record in six of those seasons. His 15-1 NFC championship team in 2015 was driven by his MVP quarterback Cam Newton and NFL Defensive Player of the Year finalist, linebacker Luke Kuechly.

In Washington, his one playoff appearance in his inaugural 7-9 season rode on the arm of a one-legged Alex Smith, who beat Dallas 41-16 the last time these two teams met on Turkey Day in 2020 and who bitterly criticized the coach for the way he was treated before being released in March 2021.

Since then, it’s been 19-24-1 and not much to show for four years of roster building and growth, one of his favorite references to deflect from his record.  “I think we have an opportunity to do some good things, and again, just continue with the growth,” he told reporters this week when questioned about his job security.

His deflection shield, Howell, showed just enough Sunday to raise questions about the organization putting all their chips on him as their future quarterback. Not enough to abandon that possibility. He has had, for the most part, a standout season.

But his 31 completions in 45 attempts for just 255 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions (and quarterback rating of 62.7 — less than half of DeVito’s rating) in a game this team desperately needed to win should put the Howell coronation on hold for a spell, especially for a team with five picks in the first three rounds of the 2024 draft.

Howell did his best to stand up for his coach Sunday when asked about the questions of a change. “I know that we have everything in this organization that we need to be successful — players, coaches everybody,” said.  “It starts with me, and I’ve got to do a better job of giving this team chances to win football games. But we have everything we need in that locker room to be successful.”

I’m not sure that’s a defense of Rivera. It may be more of an indictment.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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