Fans should not let Sunday's heartbreaking loss at the Eagles distract from what really matters for the Washington Commanders in 2023.
I turned the television off in the living room late last Sunday afternoon and yet again I found myself in a rather familiar set of circumstances. On a picture-perfect October evening, rather than enjoying it and forgetting the Washington Commanders' heartbreaking loss at the Philadelphia Eagles, I couldn't seem to shake the feeling of being miffed.
Not only did I have to endure another misery Monday to kick off the week. But of course, it had to be Philidelphia that walked off Washington in overtime. There are few things I like less than losing to the Eagles. It was a double gut punch in Week 4.
I knew deep down how improved the team looked from a week prior. I could see how well our offense was moving the ball, and Sam Howell was beyond impressive. But the fact that we lost to the Eagles in such a close game was too annoying for me to be rational.
The Commanders lost a game they could have won at Lincoln Financial Field. For that, fire everyone and sell the team again - right?
Sports fans are in a constant battle between hoping for the best and fearing the worst. On one end, when fans are hopeful, we pack the stadium and rally behind the squad. On the other end, when our fears are confirmed with bad performances, we want everyone ousted and results to be provided at the snap of a finger.
It's an emotional rollercoaster that often leaves us disoriented from the truth that lies in the middle. It distracts us from what matters most.
Not every team has the goal to win a Super Bowl when the season starts. Actually, a lot of teams know that winning a title isn't actually possible for a particular season.
Maybe they have a new draft pick to build up. Maybe there is a new head coach who is getting his footing, and like the Commanders in 2023, there might be a need to evaluate a team from the top down under new ownership. Maybe you have Justin Fields as your quarterback. Whatever the reason is, Lombardi Trophies don't grow on trees, so growing a championship-caliber organization takes time.
Of course, that doesn't stop us from wanting to win. I want Washington to win every single Sunday. In an ideal world, we'd be 17-0 by Week 18, and I would watch Usher sing at halftime of the Commanders' eventual Super Bowl victory. But that's simply not in the cards.
Commanders have one primary goal in 2023
This team has too many weaknesses. So, if we can all agree that a championship in Washington for 2023 is rather unlikely, what should the goal be?
The goal of this year is simple. It's Howell's development, and seeing what he can give you.
It is simply way too early to make a declarative statement regarding Howell and his future with the team, or the NFL for that matter. But through four weeks, there is growing optimism that he could very well be what the Commanders have been seeking for more than two decades.
Howell's performance in Philadelphia was truly unlike anything we've seen for a very long time. Sure, a divisional loss is something we've seen more than enough over the years. But a week removed from the Buffalo Bills coming to FedexField and dismantling the offense, his response was very telling about the kind of player Washington might have found in the fifth round from North Carolina.
One of the hardest things to do as a professional athlete is to bounce back and get up after getting knocked down. For context, coming into this game, Howell came off of his worst performance as a pro, and it almost felt like the Bills showed the rest of the league how to beat him.
But for a young signal-caller to respond by standing toe-to-toe with one of the most prolific teams in the sport, it shows that through a few weeks, what we hoped for is beginning to show signs of overcoming what we feared. Howell is beginning to make the case that he could be the franchise guy.
Howell's performance against the Eagles was masterful, marked by crucial third and fourth-down conversions, excellent pocket movement, and the ability to escape pressure from one of the league's best defensive lines. He stood tall in the pocket, used his legs when he needed to, and led the offense to a touchdown drive as time expired.
All this, mind you, against a Super Bowl contender in front of a sold-out Eagles crowd.
This kind of stuff is quite uncommon to see from a quarterback in Washington. Wins and losses are everything in this sport. But if you're not in the running for a title, progression and growth is the next thing we have to see.
So far? Not too shabby.
So as this season progresses, you might find yourself like me. Annoyed about a loss and ready to flip a table or two. But save your energy for what matters most - finding that franchise quarterback and watching him grow.
Whether it is Howell in the long run or not, the 2023 campaign is about finding that out. So buckle up, we've got a lot of football left.