By: Andy Davies
The Washington Football Team were crowned champions of the NFC East last season for the first time since the 2015 season, despite their 7-9 record.
In a division no team has retained since the 2004 season, can the Washington Football Team go on to repeat their success from last season?
The Right Man In Charge
If any team is to be successful, then they need a top quality head coach. Ron Rivera is certainly the man to fulfil those requirements.
Rivera guided the Carolina Panthers to a 15-1 record in the 2015 season, losing in Super Bowl 50 to the Denver Broncos. His time in Charlotte ended in disappointing fashion but in his first season in charge of Washington, Rivera reminded everyone what a great coach he is.
Rivera is a leader who immediately attracts respect from his players to his coaching staff.
“He’s definitely one of the pillars of my success. I always wanted to go out there and work for him, make him proud and show him that I’m going to capitalize on the opportunity that he presented me and he gave me. It’s deeper than football. He’s a great coach, but he’s a better man. That’s what really separates him from other coaches”, said Efe Obada, who got his chance in the NFL under Rivera.
“Ron means a lot to a lot of guys in here for a lot of things outside of football. The biggest thing you hear from current players, former players and guys who played for him in different organizations, is how much he meant to guys aside from just the fact that he was their football coach”, said former Panthers tight end Greg Olsen.
Quarterback Issue Resolved, For Now
There was one area of the field that held this team back in 2020, the quarterback position.
Washington’s defensive line excelled with Jonathan Allen and Defensive Rookie of the Year Chase Young. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin had an excellent season and will be accompanied by Curtis Samuel, who brings flexibility to the position. Running back Antonio Gibson was also brilliant in 2020, with 795 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.
However, quarterback was a problem for Washington. 2019 fifteenth overall pick Dwayne Haskins started week one but only started five more games before eventually being released.
Kyle Allen was reunited with Rivera but injury would end his season prematurely. Alex Smith had the brilliant story, coming back after life threatening injury and Taylor Heinicke had his moment in the Wildcard Round to eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Smith has since retired and whilst Heinicke deserves a chance to be a starter, Rivera clearly feels he will not be the answer over the course of the whole season.
Ryan Fitzpatrick has come in this offseason after a two-year stint with the Miami Dolphins. After arguably one of the best seasons of his career, Fitz will hope to keep this momentum going into the 2021 season.
Fitzpatrick has been notoriously inconsistent during his sixteen NFL career. If Washington can get the one we saw in 2020 and the Fitz that threw for 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with the New York Jets in 2015, then Washington have their QB resolved.
However, there is likely only to be one or two seasons left of Fitzpatrick’s career. Whether or not Heinicke or Allen prove themselves, Washington may look at taking a quarterback in the 2022 or 2023 NFL Draft.
Can They Win The NFC East?
Washington have some talented players and have the nucleus of a young up and coming team.
The Dallas Cowboys will be the favourites for the division, with Dak Prescott’s injury likely to have been a reason for them not winning it. They have attempted to address their defensive issues in 2021 but head coach Mike McCarthy could hold them back.
A difficult season in 2021 is expected for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants, despite a good offseason, still have their own issues at the quarterback position despite their promising head coach.
There is a feel good atmosphere in Washington once again after a difficult few years both on and off the field.
With the health of Dak and the question mark around Dallas’ defense and head coach, there is a tremendous opportunity for this Washington team to capitalise and win the NFC East once again.