Three questions worth asking after the Commanders move on from Scott Turner

Three questions to ask after Commanders move on from Scott Turner originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Scott Turner's tenure as Commanders offensive coordinator came to an end on Tuesday, when Ron Rivera decided to part with the assistant after three years together in Washington.

Turner's group certainly had its moments, such as a 34-point output in Atlanta during the 2021 season and a memorable 49-carry effort in an upset versus Philadelphia in 2022, but more often than not, the unit failed to affect the scoreboard enough under his watch. His inconsistent (and that might be too kind) quarterback options and makeshift offensive lines were probably bigger factors in those struggles than Turner himself, yet he's the one who took the fall nonetheless.

So, as the franchise sets out to fill its now open position, here are three questions worth asking.

1) What direction does Rivera go for a replacement?

Plenty of NFL coaches prefer to work with people they're familiar with — Bill Belichick is famous, and currently being derided, for only surrounding himself with well-known associates — but Rivera may benefit from looking outside his network of connections.

Consider what's been happening on the Commanders' defense.

Jack Del Rio, who had never overlapped with Rivera before the two linked up in 2020, has produced two out of three above-average campaigns as the head of that side of the ball. And when Rivera got rid of defensive line coach Sam Mills III (whom Rivera brought with him from Carolina to Washington) this past training camp and tabbed Jeff Zgonina as the boss of that crew, the line responded with its most notable contributions in Rivera's stint.

That's not to say that all Rivera confidants are incapable — John Matsko, the leader of the offensive line, has often done more with less upfront — yet for a club that's notched seven, seven and eight wins in the Rivera era, an outside voice could inject life into an offense that is stocked with talent.

And that sets up the next question rather nicely.

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2) Will anyone worthwhile actually take this job?

Let's begin with what's appealing about the Commanders' offensive coordinator gig.

Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson have the makings of a dynamic pair at receiver, while Curtis Samuel is a versatile third piece at the position. At running back, meanwhile, Brian Robinson Jr. was a force as a rookie and Antonio Gibson has the ideal skill set for a change-of-pace choice. Then there's tight end, which includes a hopefully-still-useful Logan Thomas and intriguing youngsters in Cole Turner and Armani Rogers.

On top of what's available at the play-making positions, the bar for success is awfully low. The squad's scoring average declined in each of Turner's campaigns and its best league-wide finish in that category during that span was 23rd. Merely bumping the bunch up to a middle-of-the-pack operation would be viewed as a success and anything better than that would be a major one.

Of course, there are downsides to the role. Large ones, really.

The quarterback in 2023 will be... Sam Howell? Another veteran acquisition who was let go by a different organization? A rookie? You, perhaps?

A coordinator's playbook could be littered with brilliant designs, but if there's no one around to execute that scheme, said coordinator won't be around for long. Turner can relate to that sentiment.

Plus, the pass and run blockers require a total overhaul, so while the places that fantasy football GMs care about are enticing, the core is the opposite.

Lastly, with Washington's present ownership situation — Dan and Tanya Snyder are weighing a sale — it's unclear how much more time Rivera's regime has. Their collective seats are already hot, and if there's a new set of eyes at the top of the Commanders in the next few months, 2023 has the potential to be Rivera and Co.'s final go-round no matter the results.

So, based on all that, a Rivera retread is a serious possibility. It's a route he's already not afraid to take and all the negatives of the job may push him harder that way once more.

3) Does this mean Taylor Heinicke's time is over?

The man who's started the most games for Washington since 2021 is a pending free agent and, if Turner isn't in the building anymore, it's reasonable to conclude that Heinicke will soon exit, too.

One of Heinicke's legitimately tangible assets — his leadership and moxie, for instance, were impossible to quantify — was his immense understanding of Turner's system. The coach and the signal-caller worked alongside each other with the Vikings, the Panthers and the Commanders, which made Heinicke the ideal backup who could assist the starter in learning and also step in whenever his services were needed.

With that strength rendered irrelevant, does Heinicke — who'll see a salary increase in his next contract — become less attractive to Rivera and the front office? The fan favorite might've been on his way out regardless of Turner's status, sure, but Turner's firing inevitably has to be pondered when Heinicke's future is discussed.