Rivera guess on himself, that his offseason gamble would come again and reap the rewards of a postseason berth. And that call failed.
The riverboat he rolled into city on three years in the past is sinking. And Rivera’s concept of saving the season, his staff’s probabilities and, shoot, perhaps his job was to ask Wentz at hand out floaties — which he promptly threw away for 3 interceptions.
After Washington went winless in its earlier three video games however when it nonetheless had a playoff berth inside its grasp, Rivera needed a “spark” and turned to Wentz. However through the Commanders’ 24-10 loss to the Browns, Wentz appeared uncomfortable within the pocket and unreliable as a beginning quarterback within the NFL. His first cross try sailed over the top of working again Jonathan Williams. And which may go down as one in every of his higher passes of the day.
All the league is aware of the scarlet letter on Wentz’s scouting report: He holds the ball too dang lengthy. Rivera has recognized that as nicely, we should always assume, as a result of it was his name to resuscitate Wentz’s profession and bring him to town. After one season, the Indianapolis Colts soured on Wentz, selecting a quickie divorce after back-to-back losses to finish final season price the staff a playoff berth. However the Colts’ giveaway was Rivera’s gold, as he so passionately expressed after the final time Wentz gained a sport as his starter.
“I’m the f—ing man that pulled out the sheets of paper, that appeared on the analytics, that watched the tape. … Okay? And that’s what pisses me off, as a result of the younger man doesn’t should have that on a regular basis,” Rivera mentioned after the Commanders’ Week 6 win.
Look, I’ve nothing in opposition to Wentz. He has been a simple goal to pile on, and a few media members in his earlier stops (Philadelphia, then Indianapolis) have ripped him for issues that don’t have anything to do with soccer. And there’s one thing morally messed-up when fans in No. 4 jerseys can have a good time Deshaun Watson, of all individuals, whereas Wentz has to jog off the sector along with his head down as residence followers pepper him with boos.
However as good of a “younger man” as Wentz, 30, could also be, he’s broken items on the soccer subject. And Rivera ought to’ve recognized that when he was the — sorry, youngsters — effing man who watched tape on Wentz, then made the choice to commerce for him.
After his efficiency — 16 for 28 for 143 yards with three picks and three sacks — Wentz dressed within the nook stall that belongs to the staff’s beginning quarterback. He pulled on his cowboy boots and grabbed his burgundy undershirt, one that completely matches the staff colours. He actually appeared the a part of the quarterback Rivera has believed him to be. These measurements make you salivate: a 6-foot-5 body and 10-inch fingers that allowed him to stretch the ball over the objective line and cap a 21-play, 96-yard drive to finish the primary half Sunday. However past the floor of his bodily talents and his résumé, Wentz displays the physique language of a damaged quarterback.
His second cross try of the sport was a power to Terry McLaurin when a power was utterly pointless. After his second interception, when he threw into double protection when Williams was open for the secure, check-down possibility, followers began the “Hein-ick-e! Hein-ick-e!” chants. All through the sport, they continued to consolation themselves with this plea. And judging from Browns linebacker Reggie Ragland, the Heinicke fan membership nonetheless runs deep within the Washington locker room.
“If you recognize soccer, you recognize [Wentz] has a gradual launch. And you recognize Heinicke will get the ball out quick,” Ragland mentioned after the sport. “A number of the guys I do know on the staff, they’d’ve most popular Heinicke as a result of they know he will get the ball out. You possibly can see it on movie, too, although. They play completely different with every quarterback.”
Wentz spent the remainder of the day ducking for canopy, making panicked choices and lacking his targets. Close to the tip, whereas again on the sideline after one other decide, Wentz wiped his sweat however saved the towel over his face a bit longer. Now not strolling the sideline and fist-pumping the teammates he was letting down, Wentz placed on a white hat and shoved these massive paws of his into hand heaters.
“We drove the ball in that final possession within the first half, and we simply felt we’d be capable of maintain one thing like that once more,” Rivera mentioned of Wentz’s efficiency, “and we simply didn’t do it.”
Washington (7-8-1) is now assured to not have a successful file for the sixth straight season. All of this was supposed to vary, significantly this yr, Rivera’s third. It was a big yr as a result of the staff ought to have grown previous the stage of building a tradition and id. Add in a bruising interior defense, a young and talented corps of offensive weapons and Rivera’s chosen quarterback, and the Commanders ought to have made a leap to contend for a playoff spot. This previous week, when hope was nonetheless excessive, Rivera spoke about the opportunity of making the playoffs this season.
“I believe the worth greater than the rest … for me, it’s to you guys: Gotcha,” Rivera mentioned, attempting to softly dunk on reporters. Which means: In your face, huge unhealthy media! We made the playoffs regardless of being essentially the most dysfunctional franchise within the league!
Sadly for Rivera, the true gotcha second got here Sunday.
By the point he walked onto the sector to shake the hand of Browns Coach Kevin Stefanski, he was serenaded by the boos of indignant followers. Miles away in Detroit, the Lions had been caring for enterprise and fulfilling half of the doomsday state of affairs. Wins by the Lions and Packers, who performed later within the afternoon, together with a Commanders loss would finish Washington’s wild-card hopes.
But when a reporter requested Rivera if he would contemplate beginning Sam Howell within the common season finale if Washington had been eradicated by the tip of the day, Rivera froze. He stared on the reporter whereas contemplating this risk in silence for 3 very lengthy, very awkward seconds.
“We could possibly be eradicated?” Rivera requested earnestly, utterly unaware of this state of affairs.
In essentially the most crucial second of his time as Washington’s coach, Rivera didn’t notice how dire Sunday’s sport was. He traded for Wentz. He began Wentz. He trusted his quarterback when the staff wanted him most. And all of it failed.