5 plays that defined where it all went wrong for the Commanders in 2023

Things could have been different...

Logan Thomas
Logan Thomas / Patrick Smith/GettyImages
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The Washington Commanders have once again underachieved this season. What specific plays could pinpoint what went wrong for a franchise on its knees?

In Jay Gruden’s final season as coach of the Washington Commanders, the team finished 3-13. After four years of hovering around .500 and making the playoffs once, he didn’t last through all 16 games as Dan Snyder wielded the axe.

Aside from being fired during the season, Ron Rivera’s tenure as head coach of the Commanders seems to be following the same trajectory. Though Washington could pull out a surprise win over the final four games, he is staring a 4-13 finish dead in the eyes.

What went wrong? The season began with promise. A 2-0 start. A new quarterback. Fresh offensive energy.

There will be plenty of post-mortems coming soon. Analysis of roster construction and game planning. Player usage and development. But sometimes football just comes down to plays.

There’s a fine line between clever and stupid. Sometimes a dropped pass or a blown coverage can turn a game or even an entire campaign on its head.

I want to look at five such plays today. These aren’t necessarily the five plays that doomed the struggling Commanders to sub-mediocrity in 2023. But they are a pretty good answer to the question of what exactly went wrong in Year 4 of Rivera's stint at the helm.