Daniel Snyder bought the Washington NFL franchise in 1999, and it’s hard to say whether the on-field results or off-field controversy brought Commanders fans more shame. The record speaks for itself: only six playoff appearances in 23 years, only two playoff wins (and none since 2005), never winning more than 10 games or advancing past the divisional round.
Arguably the scandals Snyder brought hurt even worse. Former employees accused him of sexual harassment and of creating a hostile work environment. The medical staff mishandled star left tackle Trent Williams, driving him away. While he didn’t inherit the team’s controversial former nickname, he dragged his feet before finally changing it in 2020. When he finally sold the team over the summer, Washington fans breathed a sigh of relief.
What will new owner Josh Harris bring? He’s perhaps best known for overseeing “The Process” as owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, a prolific stretch of losing that ultimately resulted in drafting star players Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. A similar strategy with the Commanders would no doubt heap further pain on fans that deserve better, but at least Harris isn’t Snyder.
Owner: Josh Harris
General Manager: Martin Mayhew
Head Coach: Ron Rivera
Harris, we’ve discussed. Since 2020, former NFL running back and businessman Jason Wright has served as team president. Mayhew has one of the most fascinating backgrounds of any general manager, having played in the NFL, trained as a lawyer, and worked in both the cap and scouting sides of the front office. Unfortunately, the results haven’t matched that resume; in 11 seasons as GM of the Detroit Lions and Washington, his teams have posted a 66-107-1 record with just two playoff appearances (both first-round exits).
Rivera enjoyed some success in Carolina, winning the NFC Championship after a 15-1 2015 season, and tallying a winning record overall, with three 11+ win seasons. He hasn’t brought that success to the nation’s capital, however. The team’s one playoff appearance came via winning a weak division at 7-9, and at 4-8, 2023 is shaping up to be the worst season yet. Rivera recently fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. The team managed to poach well-respected offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy in the offseason, but that change has produced only minor offensive improvement so far.
With Harris coming in, the whole organization—Wright, Mayhew, and Rivera on down—is on the hot seat. He figures to make changes, but we will learn who and how quickly in time.
Despite their 4-8 record, the Commanders do have some pieces. Terry McLaurin has been one of the game’s best receivers since entering the league, and 2022 first-rounder Jahan Dotson has flashed at times as a complementary option. Running back Brian Robinson and right guard Sam Cosmi, both recent day two picks, form the basis of one of the league’s better rushing attacks. Most significantly, quarterback Sam Howell has shown some signs that he can be the team’s quarterback of the future; the near-future, at least.
The defensive strength lies in the interior line, where Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, both former first-rounders out of Alabama, are signed through 2025 and 2026, respectively. Linebacker Jamin Davis, the team’s first-rounder in 2021, has emerged in year three. While rookie first-rounder Emmanuel Forbes has struggled, there’s hope he can develop into an effective piece at cornerback.