Commanders fire Scott Turner

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The Washington Commanders fired offensive coordinator Scott Turner on Tuesday, parting ways with the play caller after three seasons. 

Turner’s firing comes less than a year after the 40-year-old signed a multi-year contract extension. But the Commanders’ offense struggled mightily this past season, despite the additions of quarterback Carson Wentz, rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson and rookie running back Brian Robinson.

Turner, the son of former Washington coach Norv Turner, faced criticism over how he deployed the team’s various playmakers — tight end Logan Thomas’ wife, in a social media post, took issue with her husband’s lack of red zone targets  — and his play calls in the red zone.

The Commanders finished 8-8-1 and failed to make the playoffs for the second straight year. 

“I met with Coach Turner today and informed him that we will be moving in another direction going forward with the offensive coordinator position,” Rivera said in a statement. “Unfortunately, we did not live up to the expectations and standard that I expected to see from our offensive unit. I felt it was best for a fresh start at the coordinator position heading into next year. 

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Scott and thanked him for his three years of service to our organization. I wish Scott and his family all the best in the future.”

During Turner’s tenure, the Commanders failed to make major strides on offense. The team ranked 32nd, 21st and 28th in offensive DVOA, a Football Outsiders’ metric that measures efficiency. Washington averaged just 18.9 points per game in 2022 — a step back from the 20.5 and 19.7 it averaged the prior two years. 

The Commanders began the 2022 season hoping that Wentz’s acquisition would provide a jolt to Washington’s vertical-based passing attack and lead to more explosive plays. The team also drafted Robinson in the third round in an attempt to be able to utilize an in-your-face, power-heavy style of rushing attack.

But Washington’s offense rarely took hold. Though Wentz threw an impressive four touchdowns in Week 1 to lead to a comeback victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars, the unit’s performance plummeted over the next few weeks. It didn’t help matters that Robinson, the team’s leading rusher, missed the first four games of the season as he was recovering from two gunshot wounds after being attacked in an armed robbery attempt during training camp. 

After Robinson’s return, Washington established a run-first identity — helping the Commanders rattle off six of seven to get back into the playoff race. Yet, the Commanders weren’t able to maintain the same level of consistency as the team struggled in the red zone and on third down. The team cycled through all three of its quarterbacks over the final five games, falling out of the playoffs in the process.

As the Commanders fell apart, frustration with Turner started to bubble to the surface. Last month, quarterback Taylor Heinicke suggested the team’s scheme played a factor in Washington’s red-zone troubles against the New York Giants — a comment that caused Turner to remark the signal-caller needed to make quicker throws in tighter windows. After Washington’s playoff-eliminating 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Thomas emphasized the offense’s need to put up points. 

Hours before the move was made official, Rivera was terse in a season-ending press conference when asked to evaluate Turner’s performance in 2022. The comment marked the second time in less than a week that the coach gave a less-than-ringing endorsement of the play caller. 

Scott did his job and the things he tried to do,” Rivera said Tuesday.

In that same session, Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew harped on the importance of the run game — telling reporters that their commitment to the run was a philosophic belief shaped by their experiences in football. 

The Commanders had the fourth-most rushing attempts this past season.

“As you saw this last game, we were 2-to-1 run-pass,” Mayhew said, referencing the Commanders’ 41 rushing attempts to 19 pass attempts in Sunday’s win over Dallas. “For every time that we threw the ball, we ran the ball twice. That’s the way we want to play.” 

“We want to control the tempo of the game,” Rivera said. “I believe in a two-back system.” 

No matter who calls plays, Washington will have work to do to address the offensive side of the ball this offseason — an offseason that carries uncertainty with owner Dan Snyder exploring a sale. Rivera said he and Mayhew will meet with Snyder and his wife Tanya next Monday to discuss their plans. 

Quarterback, of course, remains Washington’s biggest on-field priority. The Commanders can release Wentz this offseason at no cost, while Heinicke is a free agent. Mayhew, said rookie Sam Howell, who started Sunday’s finale, would be an “option” for the team’s long-term answer at quarterback, but maintained that the team would explore all options. 

In Rivera’s three years at the helm, the Commanders have cycled through eight starting quarterbacks. 

Asked why he believes this offseason will produce a better result at the position,  Rivera said: “Going into it, we’re in a much better place.” 

A place that is now minus Turner

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