Commanders coach Ron Rivera is facing a multitude of important questions after his team’s disappointing 24-10 loss to the Browns in Week 17.
But one is dominating the postgame conversation above all else.
Did Rivera not know that the Commanders could potentially be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss against the Browns?
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Rivera didn’t seem aware of that possibility during his postgame news conference. When the prospect of elimination was broached by one of the reporters, Rivera seemed genuinely surprised by the possibility.
“We can be eliminated?” he asked.
HC Ron Rivera didn’t know the Commanders could be eliminated today
— 𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐩𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐍𝐞𝐰𝐬 (@sportingnews) January 1, 2023
And per Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post, Rivera acknowledged that the question was an earnest one.
Ron Rivera, frustrated by the loss and the question, later clarified he truly didn’t know the playoff scenarios because he was focused on the Browns and trying to win.
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) January 1, 2023
In fairness to Rivera, the scenarios entering Week 17 were complicated for Washington. A loss alone wouldn’t knock the Commanders out of the playoffs; it would take a Commanders loss and wins by both the Lions and the Packers for that to happen.
The only control Rivera had in that situation was beating the Browns, so that was his focus, as he referenced. The team just couldn’t get the job done.
MORE: Updated NFL playoff picture for Week 17 of the 2022 NFL season
So, while some may be focused on Rivera not knowing about being eliminated, perhaps the more prudent question is about why the team turned back to Carson Wentz after posting a 5-3-1 record with Taylor Heinicke.
Wentz struggled badly against the Browns. He threw three interceptions and led the team on just one, 21-play touchdown drive to close the first half.
Wentz’s performance was bad enough that the crowd was chanting for Heinicke to replace him early and often. Even franchise legend Joe Theismann called for Wentz to be replaced in the first half.
— Joe Theismann (@Theismann7) January 1, 2023
So, what will Rivera and Washington do at quarterback next week? He wouldn’t rule out making another change, whether that includes starting Heinicke or pivoting to fifth-round rookie Sam Howell.
“We’ll see,” he said. “We’ll sit down, talk with the coaches after we watch the tape and we’ll go from there.”
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