Through six weeks of the 2020 season, the Washington Football Team has shown everything it needs to to pass judgment: Stop pretending winning the NFC East is a possibility.
Washington (1-5) has now lost five-straight games, including Sunday's 20-19 defeat to the New York Giants (1-5), which gave a winless team its first victory of the season.
This team doesn't have what it takes to compete in the National Football League, let alone the division.
Right now Washington sits in last place in a division in which the Dallas Cowboys (2-3) just lost their starting quarterback in Dak Prescott, but will presumably finishing the season at or above .500, and the Eagles (1-4-1), despite being ravaged by injuries, will somehow string together enough wins to be right in the driver's seat as the postseason approaches.
Washington's Week 6 loss to the Giants should tell you everything you need to know about how it'll finish out the season. It's time to begin dismantling the Burgundy and Gold for parts and setting sights on the 2021 NFL Draft.
At present time, Washington is currently slated to pick second in next year's draft, with the only team with a lesser record being the 0-6 New York Jets.
The Football Team's latest loss changes the trajectory of their season, now holding the tiebreaker in draft position over the Giants. They'd be smart to play the young guys for the rest of the season while hoping the Jets can eek out a win or two. The only other teams worth worrying about are Atlanta (1-5), Jacksonville (1-5), and Minnesota (1-5), all of whom are in the mix for selecting Clemson's Trevor Lawrence No. 1 overall.
Luckily for Washington, the only other team it faces this season with a realistic shot at getting Lawrence is the Giants, who it hosts in Week 9.
Arguably the top QB prospect the NFL has seen since Andrew Luck, the 6-foot-6 Lawrence has all the tools to succeed at the game's highest level. Whoever is lucky enough to draft the Clemson star could have its franchise QB for the next decade and beyond.
This is how Washington should begin the dismantling process:
Step 1: Trade veterans and attempt to recoup draft capital.
Washington didn't get equal value for Trent Williams when trading him to the 49ers during the draft. That is not a surprise. He could've netted a first-round pick, but thanks to the old regime — which repeatedly harped on Williams returning — it didn't happen, and his trade value diminished.
The Burgundy and Gold need to start shopping Ryan Kerrigan and Brandon Scherff, if they haven't already.
I get it, Kerrigan is the longest tenured player on the team, the franchise's all-time sacks leader, and a fan-favorite. But if they're going to spend four first-round picks on defensive linemen and edge rushers, why is a veteran on a much larger salary still on the books and taking away reps from the young guys?
Kerrigan is 32 years old, making nearly $12 million on the last year of a five-year $57 million extension, and is slated to be an unrestricted free agent after this season. If the team expects the young guys to be the future on the defensive line, and Kerrigan is expected to leave in free agency, why hasn't the WFT traded him so it can recoup draft capital before losing him for nothing?
Scherff has been a great investment at right guard but the team hasn't been able to agree to a long-term deal with him and he has been ravaged by injuries.
If you can't agree to a deal — not dissimilar to the issue the team had with Kirk Cousins, repeatedly tagging him isn't going to help you long term. See what you can get for him and move on.
Lets check out an example of how that's worked for other teams.
Example A: The Miami Dolphins were in the same spot last season Washington is in now. They had a coach in his first season with a new team, a roster that needed work, and no direction. They traded left tackle Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans for two first-round picks, traded safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to the Steelers for another first-round pick, and traded veteran Kenny Stills to see what they had in the receiving corps, which rejuvenated DeVante Parker and turned his career around. In total, they saved tons on the cap, brought in marquee free agents and drafted prospects for the future.
They now have arguably the best cornerback duo in football with Byron Jones and Xavien Howard, the best young coach in the NFL in Brian Flores, a terrific veteran quarterback to keep the team competitive and their future signal-caller-in-waiting in Tua Tagovailoa, ready to capitalize when his number is called.
They stayed competitive but realized that mediocrity would keep them in an endless cycle. Had they not made those trades, they wouldn't have been able to select Tua at No. 5 overall. They would've realistically extended both Tunsil and Fitzpatrick, tanking the amount they could spend on free agents, and would have been entangled in the cycle of mediocrity that they have been in since Dan Marino retired. Now they have a future and a very bright one at that.
Example B: The Minnesota Vikings didn't want to pay Stefon Diggs, who made it very clear he wanted out on multiple occasions. A draft approached with arguably the best WR class we have seen in some time. They traded Diggs to Buffalo, recouped a first-round pick, selected Justin Jefferson from LSU, and saved themselves a ton on the cap and have maybe the best rookie receiver in the National Football League.
Step 2: Make Dwayne Haskins the backup, and keep Alex Smith on the bench until the season is over.
The decision to bench Dwayne Haskins after Week 4 was interpreted in many different ways by a lot of people. Would I have made the same decision as Ron Rivera? No. But I'm not a head coach in the National Football League. I would have given him until Week 6 against the winless Giants. We knew he wasn't beating the Ravens in Week 4, and he surely wasn't beating the LA Rams in Week 5. But the Giants in Week 6? That's a game from which your 2019 first-round pick should be able to come away with a victory.
It's understandable wanting to give Kyle Allen a chance and see what he can do, but the decision to make Alex Smith the backup for not only Week 5, but again in Week 6, doesn't make any sense.
Smith has gone through a lot over the past two years after suffering a compound fracture, and almost losing his leg and life. It's a remarkable comeback story that should be made into a film one day. As for his football career? It was great to see him make his return to the field, but gut-wrenching every time he snapped the ball. Your offensive line has struggled to protect the quarterback all year. That's not the recipe to trot out a veteran who makes you hold your breath on every play.
But, if you wanted to see if Smith could make this offense go, and needed to see it with your own eyes, you've now seen everything you needed to. Smith didn't complete a third-down conversion in the second half against the Rams and the offense struggled in all facets.
It's understandable wanting to light a fire under Haskins, to see him fight to reclaim the starting job and prove he belongs in the NFL. But that can't be done if he's inactive.
If Washington has made the conclusion Haskins isn't the long-term answer at QB, then why is relegating him to the bench the best option? You want to put as much positive tape out on him as possible to boost his trade capital. Keeping him on the bench isn't helping anyone.
If Rivera is serious about turning things around in Washington, he needs to be realistic about where they are now and where' they're going. Give up on the NFC East dream this year and get what you can from the assets who don't fit here long term. By this time next year, Washington could have a turnaround that resembles the 2020 Dolphins.
The mediocrity that's plagued this franchise for the entire 21st century needs to end with the Washington Football Team selecting Trevor Lawrence in the 2021 NFL Draft. Now figure out a way to get there.