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Monday, January 9, 2023

OPINION:

Another season has come and gone, taking with it the promise and pain that comes with being a Washington football fan.

One difference this year — the promise came at the end of the season, not the beginning.


Around here, the optimism of September is usually long dead by January. But on Sunday, even though the Washington Commanders were playing a meaningless game to close out another mediocre season, there was a sense of hope in the stands at FedEx Field as the final seconds ticked away.

The team has holes all over the roster, a big question mark at quarterback and a coach who seems to be overmatched by the demands facing the franchise, but hope flickered nonetheless.

After all, the win over the visiting Dallas Cowboys may very well have been the franchise’s last game under the ownership of Skipper Dan the Sailing Man.

Were there angels singing as the clock ran down to zero?

The playing field now shifts from Ghost Town Field to Bank of America, the investment firm hired by Skipper Dan to consider offers from potential buyers.

Last month the Washington Post reported that Bank of America “is poised to send what amounts to a prospectus for the team to qualified potential buyers who agree to the required confidentiality provisions, according to two people with knowledge of the process.”

It is of the utmost importance to move that process forward quickly. So if you are a Commanders fan or a disenfranchised Washington football fan who desperately wants to return — and you’re a Bank of America customer — call your bank manager. Tell them that you want to make sure Bank of America is doing all it can to move this sale along promptly.

Tell them it’s important to you, so much so that you’ll move your business to another bank if you find out this process is a sham. Better yet, go to the bank and tell the bank manager to their face. Heck, when’s the last time you’ve been to your bank? You’re due for a visit.

Tell them it is in the public interest for this sale to happen as soon as possible. Tell them it is in the interest of your mental health and thousands of others. Tell them that while NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has no “expectations” on when the sale will take place, you do have expectations, and you expect your bank not to take part in some sort of phony sale scheme by Skipper Dan.

Even if you aren’t a Bank of America customer, call them or stop by and say you’re willing to give them your business if they can use some leverage to force this sale to happen before the next NFL owners meetings in March.

Why the sense of urgency? Because Washington football fans shouldn’t have to waste yet another season — another year of their lives — walking in the desert with little hope of real change. That’s what another year of Ron Rivera (22-27-1) as the Commanders head coach represents — another year in the desert.

If the sale doesn’t happen quickly, then it’s more likely whoever the new owner is won’t be able to take over the franchise in time for their best chance to make a coaching change. Keeping Rivera on might wind up being a convenient choice given the calendar.

That would be bad news for the new owner and for those Washington fans excited about Skipper Dan’s exile to England and the hope of real change.

As Rivera likes to say — and as he repeated after the game Sunday — the quarterback will determine this team’s future on the field. “It is about the quarterback making the plays that he is supposed to make, managing the game when he needs to manage the game,” he said. “And then every now and then, when you need a big play, make the big play. I’ve said that before and I really do believe that’s a big part of what we need to get to.”

Rivera is not capable of finding that quarterback. He’s made one poor decision after another, from agreeing to embrace the owner’s quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, after taking the job in 2020 to trading three draft picks for a quarterback who had become a pariah in two organizations, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Indianapolis Colts, and then paying Carson Went $28 million.

Rivera made a boneheaded decision to bench Taylor Heinicke after the quarterback went lost two games to a couple of playoff teams — one of them a Super Bowl contender in the San Francisco 49ers. Rivera made the decision to start the helpless, hopeless Wentz against a weak opponent like the Cleveland Browns only to lose and cost his team a playoff chance.

Rookie quarterback Sam Howell started Sunday and led the Commanders to the upset 26-6 victory — but the first-year player’s success just raises more questions about Rivera’s decision to put the team’s fate in the hands of Wentz.

Rivera wanted a “spark” for his team in the Browns game and went to Wentz instead of Howell. After Howell’s debut, that decision now stands as another indictment of the coach’s ability to make judgments about the most important position on the field.

“We did some good things you’d like to believe,” Rivera said last week. “Now we had some opportunities we didn’t capitalize on, and that’s on us. That’s on me. But in the end, I feel good about that.”

You can understand why a coach with just three winning seasons in 12 years in the NFL would feel good about that.

No one else should — especially your banker.

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

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


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