Carson Wentz isn’t the answer at QB for the Commanders in 2023

Carson Wentz isn’t the answer at QB for the Commanders in 2023


Ron Rivera is going back to Carson Wentz and that’s in an effort to beat Cleveland on Sunday, beat Dallas next week and play on into 2023. “That’s what really worries me right now, is entering the play-offs”. said the head coach of the Washington Commanders, and it makes all the sense in the world.

However, these games do not exist in a vacuum. Whether Wentz plays well in place of Taylor Heinicke — who replaced Wentz long ago when the Commanders were a lowly 2-4 — will help determine whether Washington moves up to the seventh and final NFC playoff spot . But it will also help determine who will play quarterback for this team next season. How scary.

What a hassle. The right course of action for fans is to root for the Commanders, and therefore for Wentz, so Washington can finish with a winning record for the first time in Rivera’s three seasons. But if Wentz plays two strong games — and maybe a third, or even a fourth, in the playoffs — can he be entrenched in the job again next year?

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Here’s the problem: Every Washington fan wants a playoff appearance, especially in an NFC field that, in addition to Philadelphia and San Francisco, is likely to include several potential opponents. For a franchise that has just one playoff win this century, passing up these opportunities is unwise.

But you don’t want Wentz to be the quarterback of the future — even in 2023. He’s a placeholder, not a better one. Shoot, the Commanders are in this position — contending for the playoffs after 2022 turns to 2023 — because Heinicke replaced the injured Wentz and karmically, if not statistically, provided a lift. Do the Commanders go on the 5-1 run that rescues them from a 2-4 start with Wentz at the controls? We will never know. I doubt not.

The following exercise may be tedious, but it remains instructive. Compare some quarterbacks and their 2022 stats.

QB A has a 62.9 completion percentage, 4.4 touchdown percentage, 2.4 interception percentage, 8.5 sack percentage, 6.5 yards per attempt, 86.3 passer rating and 32.6 QBR. (QBR is ESPN’s quarterback rating metric, a category led by Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes at 78.7; Minnesota’s Kirk Cousins ​​ranks 20th at 51.0.)

QB B has a 62.2 completion percentage, 4.6 touchdown percentage, 2.3 interception percentage, 6.8 sack percentage, 7.2 yards per attempt, 89.6 passer rating and 45.0 QBR.

Who is who? Why does it matter? Clearly, one isn’t worth $28.3 million — Wentz’s salary this season — and the other $2.375 million, which is the average of Heinicke’s two-year deal. If you’re going to get essentially the same production from either quarterback, go with the cost-effective one so you can build the rest of your roster.

More than that: Wentz’s deal, unless the Commanders opt out of it — and they can opt out without salary cap ramifications — calls for him to make $20 million in 2023 and $21 million in 2024. That doesn’t sound like money . spent – and that’s regardless of how he plays over the next two weeks, and potentially in the playoffs.

So this is a puzzle. Root for the Commanders because that’s what you were raised to do – even if they played under other names. But perhaps at the cost of extending what seems like a lifetime of protective purgatory? This is costly.

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Washington’s offseason quarterback priorities should include, if not top, re-signing Heinicke as a backup, if not a near-duty starter if the Commanders take their (very close) quarterback of the future in the next two rounds before the draft. – or if it is, by some miracle, rookie Sam Howell. Heinicke is adored in the dressing room and by a large part of the fans. He is capable of winning a game or even several in a row. In a long stretch, he is constantly exposed. But you want it in your building and as a backup, no doubt.

We don’t know what Howell, who Washington picked in the fifth round last spring, can bring because he hasn’t played a regular season game. But keep in mind that the quarterbacks leading the teams in the NFC playoffs were taken in the second round (Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts), fourth (Dak Prescott of Cousins ​​and Dallas), sixth (Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady) and seventh (San Francisco’s Brock Purdy). It’s not impossible to find your quarterback lower in the draft. Whether that’s Howell or a player the Chiefs select next spring doesn’t really matter. They just have to find it – somehow, some way, for once.

The danger is letting the next two weeks — or more — fool you into thinking Wentz is the answer in 2023 and beyond. This team doesn’t necessarily need a pro at the most important position in American sports to succeed. It has talented young players on offense — Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson at receiver, Brian Robinson Jr. as a back – and his defensive front has returned as a reliable and disruptive force. Washington does not need to earn 30 points per week to win. But these Commanders — whether with Wentz or Heinicke — have reached 20 points just five times in 15 games.

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That doesn’t make it any less, and now there’s ample evidence that Wentz won’t magically change it. Oh, quarterbacks up? QB A – the one with the (slightly) lowest hitting percentage, highest interception and sack rates, lowest passer rating and QBR? This is Wentz. For all his appeal, Heinicke has shown he is not a franchise quarterback. Wentz has similar (or worse) stats – and he somehow is? No. No way.

It makes sense to go back to Wentz against Cleveland because Heinicke has followed his magical streak by going 0-2-1 and turning the ball over too often. But tread lightly here. Maybe there’s a way for the defense to carry the team to wins over the Browns and Cowboys and contend for a playoff win — and for Wentz to be more passenger than pilot, which might make moving on from him a little easier this offseason. Can.

Such a difficult place. If Wentz plays well, will he be back in 2023? Is that what the Commanders and their fans should want? The answers could be yes to the former and no to the latter, which would keep the Commanders where they have been for what seems like an eternity: searching for a franchise quarterback, again and again and again.

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