The New York Giants have one final utterly meaningless football game to play Sunday against the Washington Football Club. Because uncovering every molecule of information is what we do, though, here is a ‘5 questions’ segment with Andrew York of SB Nation’s ‘Hogs Haven.’
Ed: So, what’s it gonna be? Commanders? Admirals? I think they just just have called themselves the Washington Football Club (WFC sounds kinda cool) and left it at that.
Andrew: I actually wouldn’t mind Washington Football Club, but I don’t think that’s the direction they’re going to take. Fans were heartbroken to learn that it will NOT be Red Wolves, which was the fan-favorite name by a mile. Team President Jason Wright claims that the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA team threatened to block any name involving wolves as a violation of their trademark, though fans are skeptical they’d be able to defend such a broad trademark claim and think it’s more likely that the WFT simply lacks the will to spend money and time going to court over a name simply because fans like it more.
Right now, fans seem pretty convinced the name will be the Washington Commanders, tying in the fact that the Commander-in-Chief resides in DC and that the first Commander-in-Chief was Washington himself. It also plays to the military community of the area, which is large and which the NFL and Ron Rivera seem to love to talk about at every opportunity. Commanders is also the name that has been predicted by a lot of beat reporters and others with sources on the team. A lot of fans seem to be unhappy with that name, but I don’t think it’s as bad as many of the alternatives. Another name floated as a serious possibility is the Admirals, which I don’t think makes any sense as a DC-specific name nor does it tie into our team history. A fan-favorite possibility would be Hogs or Warthogs, which at least connects to the Hogs offensive line of team history, but there haven’t been any reports from team sources indicating that will be the case. Whatever the case, the team will formally announce the name on 2/2/22.
Ed: What happened to this team? Washington was 6-6, riding a four-game winning streak and looking like a contender. Now, four straight losses.
Andrew: Injuries, COVID, and regression to the mean (particularly for the QB). First, I would say several key injuries to starters were thinning our team even before the COVID wave. DE Chase Young, DE Montez Sweat, TE Logan Thomas, RB JD McKissick, our top 3 Centers, and RT Sam Cosmi all sustained serious (mostly season-ending) injuries late in the season. All of those guys missed our Week 14 Cowboys game (the start of our slide) and all were important starters.
Then the combo Omicron wave/winter COVID surge happened and DC seems to have been one of the first cities affected. Over the next 2 weeks, we ended up putting around 25 players on COVID/reserve. Both of our QBs were out for our week 15 Eagles game and we had to start a QB (Garett Gilbert) we signed off another team’s practice squad days before, yet I think we still fought hard and were up 10-0 to start the game, before finishing 27-17. Since that game was delayed to a Tuesday, we had a very short week to prepare for the Cowboys week 16 and that’s the game where the weight of injuries, COVID, the short practice week, and a few other factors finally became too much and the team got embarrassed in primetime.
Last week (Week 17), we finally got most of our guys back from COVID/reserve, but still couldn’t quite get the win, despite leading for most of the game. I think the previous 2 weeks were simply out of reach due to the number of players on COVID/reserve, but last week’s game was winnable and the team should have done better, which brings me to the last reason: regression to the mean (particularly at QB). I think overall, our 4-game win streak showed us what this team is capable of, but we’re still not good enough to do it consistently. We still need more talent at certain positions and we need more consistency in how groups work together (particularly on defense). We also need a QB with fewer limitations, as I think teams started to game plan for Heinicke’s weak arm by bringing coverage closer to the line and started jumping on his tendency to throw to primary reads even if they were double or triple covered.
Ed: Joe Judge denies he was talking about Washington when he talked about teams having players fight on the sideline, but that’s a tough sell. What’s the reaction been to that unfortunate remark?
Andrew: Rivera was asked about it in a recent presser and this was his reply:
Joe Judge took a few shots at the WFT franchise.. Ron Rivera said of it, "It's interesting and I'm not going to respond to something that's interesting. I've got tremendous respect for the Maras and Tischs. They're quality people and do a great job."— John Keim (@john_keim) January 5, 2022
Note that Rivera likes categorizing things as either “interesting” or “important”, but generally not both, and only “important” things are worth time and energy. I haven’t heard anything about the players caring about Judge’s quote and fans are more concerned with the name change and planning for the offseason.
Ed: Is Washington in a situation where quarterback has to be a draft priority?
Andrew: Yes, I think the team will try to do something to add a QB, whether in a trade or in the draft. It’s going to be tough though, because we don’t have much draft capital compared to teams like the Giants and Eagles. We do have more cap space than those teams though, so we can better afford to fit a veteran QB under the cap. Ron Rivera is also known for preferring vets over young players and we reportedly made an offer on Stafford last offseason, so I think they will try to swing a trade first of all, but resort to the draft if a trade doesn’t materialize. I don’t think they have much interest in trading up though, or they should have done that last year with a deeper QB class. If we go for a QB in the draft, I think it will be a developmental QB who sits behind Heinicke (or a free agent QB) for a while before starting.
Ed: MetLife Stadium seats 82,500. I know Washington fans barely even go to games at FedEx Field. If I put the over/under for how many people will be in the stadium Sunday at 20,000 which would you take?
Andrew: Although it’s true that Washington fans don’t frequent FedEx Field, the fanbase travels well. We don’t like to go to our own stadium because it’s a terrible stadium and the money goes to Dan Snyder, but we are happy to see the team play in other cities. I would actually expect turnout to be decent for a division game between two teams that have been struggling and would easily take the over on 20,000 people in the stadium. Each of our fanbases will probably be a little more motivated hoping for their team to finally get a win against their weakest division-rival opponent. There’s also the sunk-cost fallacy that Giants fans with season tickets will probably go to the game simply because they’ve already paid for it (or they’ll resell the ticket via a 3rd party, in which case it still gets used). Also, according to PFR, the Giants haven’t had fewer than 70K people at a home game this season, so I doubt this will be the first. On the other hand, Washington has boasted low 50K almost every home game, which is 2nd only to the Lions as lowest in the NFL. Particularly impressive when you consider more than 50% of people at FedEx Field are usually opposing team fans.