This unheralded Washington coach deserves more credit

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team reacts to a play during the fourth quarter in the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - OCTOBER 03: Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team reacts to a play during the fourth quarter in the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on October 03, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images) /

The Washington Football Team is one of the hottest teams in the NFL. They have the longest winning streak, four, in the NFC and have crashed the playoff and (potentially) NFC East party.

And they are doing it while losing key parts nearly every week. Montez Sweat with a broken jaw against the Broncos, Chase Roullier fractured his fibula against the Broncos, Chase Young with a torn ACL against the Buccaneers, Roullier’s two backups — Tyler Larsen and Wes Schweitzer — going down with injuries in consecutive weeks, losing Sam Cosmi to a hip after recovering from his ankle injury, Landon Collins with an ankle injury against the Seahawks and now Logan Thomas with a knee injury.

And the Washington Football Team just keeps on chugging. They combine toughness, heart, resilience, and some high-end talent in key places to keep stringing together wins. Many coaches and players deserve credit.

Ron Rivera deserves credit for staying the course, remaining calm, and trusting that his players will turn it around. Scott Turner deserves credit for cultivating a plan on offense that is focused on controlling the game with smash-mouth football. Jack Del Rio deserves credit for turning around a putrid defense, which has kept opposing offenses to scoring just 17 points per game over the four-game winning streak.

Ken Zampese, the quarterback’s coach deserves credit for getting the best out of Taylor Heinicke. Chris Harris deserves credit for getting the new pieces in the secondary to finally gel. And that is just the iceberg of coaches that deserve credit along with the players.

But there is one coach, who might just be the most underrated coach in the NFL, that deserves praise. And his name is John Matsko. The offensive line coach for the Washington Football Team.

John Matsko may be Washington’s best assistant coach.

John Matsko does not necessarily bring the name value of Jack Del Rio or Scott Turner. Or even secondary coach Chris Harris, who was interviewed for defensive coordinator positions last offseason.

But that does not mean he does not provide the same, or more, value as everyone else on the Washington Football Team coaching staff. The above graphic combines both a team’s PFF Grade and their win rate via ESPN, in both pass protection and run blocking, and then puts them on a graph.

Washington’s offensive line comes in the top three in both of the offensive line graphs. Washington has a top-five offensive line in the NFL. That alone makes John Matsko one of the most valuable coaches on the staff. Besides quarterback performance, trench play may be the greatest indicator of a team’s success.

But it becomes even more impressive when the pieces Matsko is working with are taken into consideration.

First, let’s start with the injuries. Sam Cosmi, the team’s second-round pick in 2021, who was performing exceptionally well when he was healthy has missed most of the year due to ankle and hip injuries. Brandon Scherff, the team’s All-Pro right guard, missed four weeks with a knee injury.

Chase Roullier, one of the best centers in the NFL, broke his leg on Halloween against the Broncos which ended his season. Tyler Larsen, his backup, injured his knee against the Panthers. Wes Schweitzer, the backup guard and emergency center, injured his ankle the following week against Seattle.

That forced 2020 fifth-round pick, Keith Ismael, who had been on the practice squad for most of the year, to come in and take over the duties of the starting center. The duties of a center, including making adjustments at the line, were left to a second-year player who was receiving his first meaningful action. And he has not missed a beat. There may be a few instances where it’s been noticeable that a fourth (!) string center is playing, but it hasn’t been very often, that’s for sure.

Currently, on the offensive line, Washington is playing left tackle Charles Leno who signed in May , Ereck Flowers whom they acquired via trade in April, and a fourth-string center that is just now getting his first meaningful NFL snaps.

Brandon Scherff and Cornelius Lucas are the only two linemen on the starting five that played together last year. That makes the job Matsko has done even more impressive.

The techniques he teaches have allowed the line to maintain its stellar play despite injuries, lack of elite talent at most spots, and a relative lack of long-term chemistry which may be the most important piece to success in the trenches.

Having the trust in the man beside you to communicate when he passes off a pass-rusher to you or when he will come and help you clean up is a key component to trench play in football.

Here is where the value of John Matkso comes in: the offensive line has every reason to be shaky and it simply is not. In fact, it is one of the team’s greatest strengths. It opens up lanes every week for Antonio Gibson in the run game and gives Taylor Heinicke ample time to make decisions in the pocket.

Washington’s path to success over its four-game winning streak has been controlling the game by dominating time of possession. They are relying on the run game to make the game easier for Heinicke and give opposing offenses fewer possessions.

This strategy cannot work with an offensive line that cannot impose its will. And this offensive line does. Their play has helped Washington control games the way they want to.

John Matsko may not be the most well-known assistant coach for the Washington Football Team. But that should change. Because he may be the most valuable of them all.

Next. Taylor Heinicke earning insane incentive during win streak. dark