Commanders fans likely engaged in their own version of silent prayer in the stands while watching their team throw up on themselves Sunday.
Like a TV evangelist charlatan, the Commanders and their new-age leader, team president Jason Wright, were exposed as a franchise buried so deep by their own sins that there is likely no salvation — save for, of course, excommunicating their owner, Dan Snyder.
On the day the Washington Post reported that momentum is building among NFL owners to either convince Skipper Dan the Sailing Man to sell the franchise or try to force him out, Ghost Town Field presented itself as exhibit A for evidence of how truly damaged this NFL product is in the nation’s capital.
The overwhelming presence of Philadelphia fans wasn’t necessarily a surprise. We’ve seen it before and from other visiting fans as well.
But this is the new brand, the Washington Commanders, the franchise on the upswing, the team doing all the right things now while seven separate investigations continue into the team’s personnel and business practices from “Christmas past,” as Wright referred to their alleged rear-view troubles while meeting with reporters at the stadium before their preseason game against Carolina in August.
“We’re not going to have a full stadium for every game this year,” Wright told reporters at the time. And I don’t want to get ahead of our team being able to tell the real story of the resurgence of the fan base, which is probably still another year or so out. I’ll tell you, in terms of (positive) momentum, is the best way to describe it and the most accurate way.”
It’s also the most delusional way.
Oh, they had a full stadium Sunday. In fact, more than full. The Washington Times reported last week that team officials said the capacity for Ghost Town Field — once 91,000 — is now somewhere between 62,000 to 63,000.
But Sunday’s attendance was reported to be 64,426. Turns out team officials added some standing room only sales to accommodate those Eagles fans — which, based on my estimate, made up more than 60% of the crowd — maybe closer to 70%.
Put it this way — if you were outside the stadium and you heard the crowd roar, you might think it was because of a big Commanders play. And you would have been wrong.
The stadium and the Eagles fans who filled it with cheers of “defense, defense” when the Commanders had the ball were the story. A different story than in the past because now they are selling a new brand.
The game may be its own story for different disappointing reasons — mainly the poor performance of Ron Rivera’s prize quarterback he traded for (the last quarterback standing at the Home Depot waiting for work this winter, apparently, based on the ESPN story about the Commanders’ interest in Jimmy Garoppolo).
And, of course, there were the nine John Beck-like sacks.
Rivera was asked about the quarterback who, two weeks ago after Wentz led a 28-22 comeback win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, Rivera declared “we’re going to ride him. We’ll go with the good and we’ll go with the bad.”
“Well, I think he could have played better,” Rivera said Sunday.
Wentz agreed. “Not good enough,” when asked about his performance against one of the two former teams than banished him. “Definitely not good enough. Hats off to them. That is a good defense. That’s a good team. They got after us and I did not play to my standards, especially early.”
What is that about? The Commanders have scored zero points in the first half of their last two games. Was offensive coordinator Scott Turner late to arrive Sunday because of the traffic from the Eagles crowd?
There was a lot of hedging on the impact of the Eagles fans. Terry McLaurin, who caught six passes for 102 yards, said he wouldn’t “necessarily say that. You don’t necessarily want to see the opposing team’s fans as much as you did, but at the end of the day we’re paid to play football and we try to control what’s going on, on the field. We tried to do that. They made some pretty good noise at times. We were doing some things with the snap count, but at the end of the day we control what’s on the field. What’s going on in the stands, we don’t necessarily have control over that, but definitely could see a lot of green out there.”
Remember, he’s talking about his home field.
Rivera, who has touted numerous times the value of fan support at these games, dismissed the presence of Eagles fans on the impact of the game. “I don’t think so,” he said.
He’s right. They were beat by a much better team Sunday, and the final result would have been the same if they played with the stands empty.
But the impact on the sale of a new brand? It was as if everyone in Ghost Town Field took a sip of new Coke and spit it out all at once.
Hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.
• Thom Loverro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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