LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — After the Washington Commanders ended their disappointing season with a 38-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, there was plenty of head shaking and introspection about how things went wrong.
There was also a tinge of hope, as the defeat to fall to 4-13 secured the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft. That gives the expected next regime in charge the opportunity to select one of the top two quarterback prospects available: USC’s Caleb Williams or North Carolina’s Drake Maye.
“You see it around the NFL, man,” Payne said. “Just last year, the Houston Texans, man, they were horrible. Now look at them. They’re a playoff team. All it takes is a couple pieces. A couple pieces, a couple good players, just start a run.”
The Commanders lost their final eight games, a stretch that included coach Ron Rivera firing defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and taking over the play-calling on defense. Washington lost all six of those games to tie the franchise record for the most defeats in a season.
“There’s only so much I can control,” said Rivera, who celebrated his 62nd birthday Sunday. “When we get an opportunity to visit tomorrow, we’ll have a conversation and go from there.”
That’s probably for the best after Rivera’s tenure produced just one playoff appearance — a loss — and left very few building blocks for the future. This season was meant to be a chance for Sam Howell to show he can be the franchise’s QB moving forward, and he became Washington’s first player to start every game of a season at the position since Kirk Cousins in 2017.
It did not go as planned for Howell or offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who came to the Commanders in part to show he should get an NFL head job and whose future is also murky. Veteran tight end Logan Thomas said the Commanders “had their ups and downs” with Bieniemy.
“We had some good, we had some bad,” Thomas said. “It’s one of those things where something new comes in after you’ve been used to something else for a couple years and sometimes you can bang heads. But I respect him for coming to work every day and being the same person every day.”
Howell on Sunday threw two more interceptions to give him a league-high 21 this season and was sacked four more times to make it a league-high 65 over 17 games.
“I’ve learned a lot,” said Howell, who was 19 of 27 for 153 yards and a touchdown pass to Brian Robinson Jr. against Dallas. “I’ve grown a lot as a player, as a person, and for that I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Washington went 26-40-1 with Rivera, who fell to 102-103-2 in his coaching career, which began with nearly a decade in Carolina before he was fired midseason in 2019. He was deferential when asked if the next person in charge of football operations should look for a quarterback with the second pick.
“I think the organization has to do what they believe is best for the organization,” Rivera said. “They’ll make the best decision going forward.”
AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl