What's the Offensive Plan For the Washington Commanders?
The Washington Commanders don't have a clear path to be a good offense. Since letting Kirk Cousins walk in free agency in 2018, the team has been a revolving door of quarterbacks, none of them really successful, and the current version of the offense doesn't look any better than it did under Taylor Heinicke last season. The worst part is that the Commanders invested significant draft capital to trade for Carson Wentz, and he is still one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL.
Since 2018, the Commanders have had 11 starting quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Josh Johnson, Colt McCoy, Mark Sanchez, Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Garrett Gilbert, and Carson Wentz.
After four seasons of instability, two of which under head coach Ron Rivera, the team decided this offseason it was time to make a move to acquire a veteran quarterback. Reports indicated Jimmy Garoppolo was the main target, but a shoulder injury prevented the team from finalizing the deal.
Instead of waiting for better market opportunities or signing a bridge free agent, the Commanders decided to trade two third-round picks, plus a swap of seconds, to the Indianapolis Colts for Carson Wentz and a seventh. As if the trade value wasn't bad enough, the contractual obligations are heavy.
The Commanders are paying Wentz $ 28.3 million this season. There are still two non-guaranteed years — $ 26.1 million for 2023, $ 27.2 million for 2024 —, which is hard to believe Washington will pay.
In a composite of EPA (expected points added) and CPOE (completion percentage above expected), Carson Wentz is the 28th best quarterback in the NFL. The only worse QBs are Baker Mayfield, Justin Fields, Davis Mills, and Mitchell Trubisky. Quarterbacks ahead of Wentz include several players who were free agents in March: Geno Smith (Seattle Seahawks), Jacoby Brissett (Cleveland Browns), Marcus Mariota (Atlanta Falcons), Jameis Winston (New Orleans Saints), and Joe Flacco (New York Jets), plus Jimmy Garoppolo, who could've been traded but restructured his deal to stay in San Francisco, plus Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan, who were traded.
Each and every free agent above signed cheaper deals than the Wentz's one in Washington. If the idea was to bring in a competent bridge quarterback, any of them would have been a better option. But Wentz wasn't brought in to be a bridge. The Commanders talked themselves into the idea that he could be a long-term solution.
So far, however, Wentz hasn't been any of that. He is 27th in EPA/play, 26th in CPOE, 28th in success rate. For comparison, Taylor Heinicke was 8th in EPA/play after four weeks last season.
The Commanders are the only NFC East team with a losing record (1-3), three games behind the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles and two wins behind the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys.
Ron Rivera did achieve the playoffs in his first season in Washington, but it was with a 7-9 record in a historically bad division. Last season, the team was 7-10, and it is trending towards a losing record once again. Worse than that, there isn't a path to be better in the near future. Four weeks into his first season in Washington, it's safe to say Carson Wentz isn't the answer.