Commanders seek ‘fresh start’ at OC, Scott Turner fired
ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington commanders He fired offensive coordinator Scott Turner on Tuesday after another disappointing season on offense.
Turner, who signed a three-year extension last offseason, had been with coach Ron Rivera for seven years, including the last three in Washington. He trained under Rivera for four seasons Carolina Panthers as well.
The Commanders finished their third consecutive season with a poor offensive rating. They were 20th in total meters and 26th in positions. Their best marks in Turner’s three seasons were 23 points and 21 yards, both last season.
“Unfortunately, we did not live up to the expectations and standards I expected from our offensive unit,” Rivera said in a statement. “I felt it would be best for him to start in the coordinator position next year. I have the utmost respect for Scott and thank him for his three years of service to our organization.”
In the end, players and others in the organization grumbled about the inconsistency of Washington’s offensive philosophy. There seemed to be a divide between the vision of what Rivera wanted offensively — leading a power play — and Turner’s vertical passing offense. In their end-of-season press conference, Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew emphasized their desire to have a more physical running group.
“We have to control the pace of the game,” said Rivera.
Washington’s offense wasn’t helped by the loss of its rookie quarterback Brian Robinson Jr. for the first four games of the season after being shot twice in the right leg in late August. The Commanders wanted to appear in a power-based running game. Once they lost, they focused more on trying to get the ball to the receivers — Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel — with strong arms Carson Wentz. After scoring 55 points in the first two games, they scored 47 in the next four.
Some players complained that in some games it took too long to get the ball to top players like McLaurin. Or, some players said, they would depart from a formula that worked in games. Others said they liked the offense but wanted to see changes in the way it was taught. Quarterbacks were also considered a difficult offense to learn, perhaps because they didn’t instill much flexibility at the line of scrimmage.
During the year there was concern about the scope of the crime. A source said Rivera sat in on more offensive meetings this season to better understand what was going on. One person who played the team in Washington this season said the Commanders lacked an offensive personality and simply called a collection of plays, bringing some anticipation.
Compounding the problem: Washington’s offensive line struggled, and lacked stability at quarterback. In the last three years, eight quarterbacks started, including three this season — Wentz, Taylor Heinicke and beginner Sam Howell. Washington will look to bolster its line this offseason, possibly with at least two new starters.
Rivera also spoke to players in exit meetings, some of whom said it gave him second thoughts about the offense.
“I take into account everything I get,” Rivera said, “not only from the players, but from the coaches themselves, because of what I look at, what I observe on the field, on tape.”
Washington will interview outside candidates, but the Commanders like the offensive system they have in place. One in-house candidate would be quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, who was the coordinator with Cincinnati in 2016-17 before being fired after two games into his second season.
Turner served as quarterbacks coach during Rivera’s final two seasons in Carolina. He served as the interim offensive coordinator for the final four games of the 2019 season before joining Rivera’s staff in Washington for 2020.
“We’ve had some good moments. Obviously, some bad moments,” Turner said last week. “For the most part I feel like I’ve done a pretty decent job. Sometimes you’ve gone too far one way or another for sure.”
Rivera fired his defensive coach, Sam Mills III, in August; the line had its best collective season in 2022.
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