Sep 25, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera greets quarterback Carson Wentz (11) before the game between the Washington Commanders and the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

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Ron Rivera: ‘Quarterback’ why Commanders are last in NFC East

When Ron Rivera was asked Monday why the other teams in the NFC East are further along in rebuilding their teams than the Washington Commanders, Rivera had a one-word answer: “Quarterback.”

The Washington coach soon clarified that he had no regrets over the team’s blockbuster trade to acquire Carson Wentz amid the team’s 1-4 start.

“No, I got no regrets about the quarterback,” Rivera said. “I think our quarterback has done some good things. There’s been a couple games that he struggled, but you look at his numbers from yesterday and you would say, OK, look, at his numbers he’s had throughout the year, there was a time he was very solid. And then we had the unfortunate Philadelphia game, and he struggled a bit in the Dallas game.

“But the way he performed (Sunday against Tennessee), it just shows you what he’s capable of and we chose him because we believe in him. We chose him because we looked at what we felt were things that pointed towards him.”

The Commanders are looking up at the Philadelphia Eagles (5-0), the New York Giants (4-1) and the Dallas Cowboys (4-1) in the division. Philadelphia jettisoned Wentz two years ago to make Jalen Hurts the centerpiece of its offense; now the Eagles are the only unbeaten team in football.

The Giants are getting more out of Daniel Jones in his fourth NFL season after declining to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. And the Cowboys, who lost Dak Prescott to a broken thumb in their Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, have won four straight games behind backup Cooper Rush.

The Commanders, on the other hand, opened the season by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars and have lost four in a row since.

Wentz has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,390 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also taken 20 sacks in five games and lost one fumble. On Sunday, he threw an interception at the Tennessee 2-yard line at the end of the game to let the Titans escape with a 21-17 win.

Rivera said the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and teams can only build success “around a specific quarterback.”

Alex Smith, who was with Washington in 2018-20 and overlapped with Rivera in 2020, called out his former coach while appearing as an analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown.”

“I’m not going to lie, I had a really hard time watching that. When I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not here to defend Carson Wentz, he’s had a tumultuous career and ups and downs. But this is a defensive head coach that is absolutely driving the bus over his quarterback.”

Smith noted that Wentz ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards, while the Commanders ranked 28th in rushing offense and tied for 26th in scoring defense.

“The blame has got to be spread around,” Smith said.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
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