5 takeaways from Ron Rivera & Martin Mayhew’s season-ending media session

The Washington Commanders wrapped up the 2022 season Sunday with an impressive beatdown of the Dallas Cowboys to finish the year with an 8-8-1 record.

On Tuesday, Washington fired offensive coordinator Scott Turner after three seasons with the Commanders. But only hours before Washington fired Turner, head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew met with the media to discuss the 2022 season and what lies ahead in what should be a busy offseason.

We didn’t learn a lot from the press conference, but there were plenty of interesting nuggets. Anytime there was a tough question, we’d hear the word evaluate or evaluation to avoid giving a direct answer, which is understandable.

They have a "plan" for Daron Payne

Rivera on not signing Payne to an extension last season:

Well, I think again, it’s something you take a long look at. You look at players that are playing and what’s going on and what’s happening and how well they’ve done consistently and stuff. And you go through that entire process and then you come up with your decision.

Mayhew on Payne:

We’re working through that process now, obviously Daron isan important part of what we’re doing. Great year this year. 11.5 sacks, the guy played outstanding football this year. He’s always been disruptive. He’s always been in the back field, he’s always been around the ball. Well, this was the first year he really was finishing the way that he finished this year, so he played outstanding football for us. It’d be difficult, to move forward without him, obviously. We have a plan and we definitely wanna get him back.

Of course, they want him back. Neither tipped their hand about using the franchise tag on Payne, but that’s certainly on the table. Negotiations with Payne will be tough because he is staring at free agency, where as Jonathan Allen had a year left on his contract. Payne is not giving any type of discount. He’s getting the franchise tag.

Do they want Taylor Heinicke back?

Taylor Heinicke has saved Washington in each of the last two seasons. Sure, he hasn’t necessarily taken the Commanders to the playoffs, but can you imagine how bad Washington would’ve been if Heinicke wasn’t around to step in for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Carson Wentz?

Heinicke is a free agent and clearly knows Washington sees him as a backup. Is there an interest in bringing him back?

“Yes,” Rivera said. “I think, again, all our guys are guys that we’re going to evaluate and see where they fit for us. Taylor is a guy that has done some really good things for us.”

Notice the word evaluate again? There is nothing left to evaluate with Heinicke. You know who he is.

Mayhew on Heinicke:

With regard to Taylor [Heinicke], he’s just been exceptional since I’ve been here. Prior to me getting here, obviously he played great in that playoff game against Tampa Bay. Last year we signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to start him. He played 16 snaps. Taylor played the whole season for us last year. This past season, we brought Carson in. He waits his turn and when his turn comes, he steps in and he plays great football for us. So, he was instrumental, I thought, in salvaging our season.

It’s doubtful Washington brings back Heinicke, but he will have suitors.

They are in the market for a cornerback and a center

We know of Washington’s need for help on the offensive line. The Commanders need to bring in at least three new starters on the offensive line. At center, Chase Roullier has had season-ending injuries in each of the last two years. His top backup, Tyler Larsen, has also gone down to season-ending injuries each of the last seasons.

Both are good players and provide terrific depth, but at some point, you need to bring in a young player and allow one to leave. It’s cruel, but it’s business.

“Unfortunately, the position we’ve had a lot of injuries is center, and it’s something we got to, like Martin said, we got to look at and figure out how we can solidify that group and hopefully not have to go through that again,” Rivera said. 

Rivera on the cornerback position:

So we’ve got a good group of young guys that we’re curious about. We most certainly do look to add to that group. In talking with Martin earlier, some things that we got to look at, that’s one of the positions we most certainly want to see if we can add some more depth to, whether it’s through free agency or through the draft. But it is a position of interest for us.

Notice that last sentence? Washington badly needs another starting-level player outside of Kendall Fuller and Benjamin St-Juste. Danny Johnson and Christian Holmes are outstanding depth pieces at cornerback.

Mayhew essentially confirms the obvious that Carson Wentz will not be back

Rivera and Mayhew each talked about the decision to acquire Wentz. Both blamed the injury and a lack of a running game early in the season for Wentz’s struggles. However, at one point in the presser, if you listened carefully, Mayhew answers a question about the next quarterback search.

Well, you pretty much have to enter every season and look at the entire landscape of what’s available and I thought we did a really good job of that last year. We talked about drafting guys. We talked about who we could trade for and we talked about free agents. We went through the entire process of all those guys and did a very thorough evaluation. We will do the same thing this year. We’re not gonna rule out acquiring a vet. We’ll go through the entire landscape of who’s available

If Wentz were an option, the Commanders wouldn’t be worried about acquiring a vet. And Washington shouldn’t be afraid to add a quality veteran just because Fitzpatrick and Wentz didn’t work out. You brought both of those guys in, and they both were significant risks. Fitzpatrick was 38, while Wentz had struggled over the last few seasons.

Rivera's quote on win/loss records was interesting

Remember how in the offseason, Rivera stated he expected his team to take a major step forward in year three? He said it on more than one occasion. And in fairness to Rivera, the Commanders did take some positive steps. However, they still finished with a .500 record. Rivera gave a detailed answer on his team’s development in 2022.

Here’s a part of his answer:

You look at the number of young guys we’ve put on the football field that played for us, that played meaningful minutes in big games and won. You like to think that that shows that they are growing, that they’re developing, they understand what it takes now. So, I’d like to think that that shows something. It’s not always on what’s on the win loss record that indicates whether you’ve grown a little bit or not. It’s been my experience that winning certain types of games are important. And I think we did some of those things. We’ve done it a couple of times where we’ve beat the last undefeated team in games that we weren’t picked to even come close.

Wait, what did Rivera say about the win/loss record? That contradicts what. he has said in the past. Check out his tweet from Thom Loverro.

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As Bill Parcells said, “you are what your record says you are.” Rivera has won 22 games in three seasons as Washington’s coach and fans do not want excuses; they want results.

Story originally appeared on Commanders Wire