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Monday, October 31, 2022

OPINION:

Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke had some answers Sunday for those “analytics” that his coach, Ron Rivera, was bellowing about two weeks ago when questions were raised about Rivera‘s previously professed love for Carson Wentz.

You remember Wentz, right?


Following the dramatic 17-16 comeback win over the Indianapolis Colts, Heinicke was asked what it is about him that the “analytics” miss.

“I think it’s the intangible things that really keep this team together,” Heinicke told reporters. “A lot of the wins aren’t pretty, but it’s a win, nonetheless. The guys have a lot of heart. They keep battling. If we’re down two scores, we’re going to keep battling. That’s just our team. We’re just a bunch of guys out there working hard and trying to play our best ball, and we don’t give up on each other. I love this team. It’s my favorite team I’ve been on, favorite locker room I’ve been with, and I can’t say enough good things about all the guys in there.”

Notice the intangible of not taking any credit for those intangibles and instead spreading it around the locker room.

He loves this team? This team loves him. His coach loves him. All coaches love him. Show me a coach who doesn’t love this:

“It is an underdog mentality,” Rivera said last week. “It’s the way he plays. He plays all out. And the legend grows when you dive at pylons and do what he did. I mean, you get guys to rally and people love that. But the underdog mentality I think is what people really gravitate towards.”

Ron Rivera is people and, save for the few quarterbacks in the league where elite talent trumps all, every other coach would love to have a quarterback who has an “underdog mentality” and “plays all out.”

No one has ever said this about Carson Wentz — maybe except Commanders owner Skipper Dan, the Sailing Man.

Rational people saw the trade for Wentz to be what it was — a foolish, desperate move after other tradeable quarterback commodities like Russell Wilson laughed at the notion of being dealt to the Commanders.

But who was the desperate one? We may have thought it was Rivera, entering year 3 of a five-year contract. But that makes little sense. The former Chicago Bears linebacker hardly seems like the kind of narcissistic coach who would think he could make Wentz right after the quarterback had been rejected by two organizations in two years.

After all, Frank Reich, the “Quarterback Whisperer,” couldn’t do it in Indianapolis.

Rivera doesn’t seem like the kind of coach who would be enamored with a former No. 1 pick with a name, a big arm and a U-Haul full of baggage. He doesn’t seem like the kind of decision-maker who would trade a second-round pick, two third-round selections for damaged goods and then pay him $28 million this season to boot. 

Skipper Dan? That’s his modus operandi.

The explosive Oct. 13 ESPN report about Skipper Dan stated it was the owner who was “imploring football decision-makers last March to trade for quarterback Carson Wentz.”

When Rivera responded to this following the team’s 12-7 win over the Chicago Bears, he blew up on the podium. “Everybody keeps saying I didn’t want anything to do with Carson, well, bulls—-,” he said. “I’m the f—-ing guy that pulled out the sheets of paper, looked at the analytics, watched the tape when we were at Indianapolis, OK? And that’s what pisses me off, ‘cause the young man doesn’t deserve to have that all the time.”     

First, everyone wasn’t saying he didn’t want anything to do with Wentz. They were questioning why Rivera would have initiated the deal to trade for Wentz who, besides the issues in the locker rooms in two stops, looked like a backup quarterback by the end of last season in Indianapolis.

Second, he still didn’t actually say it was his idea to trade for Wentz. He may have simply, like so many other coaches have before him, went along with it. Or, as Jim Zorn famously said, “complied.”

Mike Shanahan didn’t want Donovan McNabb. Skipper Dan and his imaginary friend Bruce Allen did. Shanahan went along with it. After all, he inherited Jason Campbell as his quarterback. It wasn’t Shanahan’s idea to trade three first-round picks and a second for the chance to draft Robert Griffin III in 2012. But he went along. After all, his quarterbacks were Rex Grossman and John Beck. Jay Gruden was kept out of the loop for the 2018 Alex Smith trade. Skipper Dan told Gruden and his front office they were going to draft his son’s Bullis School friend, the late Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, with the 15th pick in the 2019 NFL draft.

You sense a pattern here?

Why would the deal for Wentz be any different?

But like all Skipper Dan’s quarterback deals, it looks worse as time goes on.

Hear Thom Loverro on the Kevin Sheehan Podcast.

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


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