Commanders

If Zimmerman is 'Mr. National,' who will be 'Mr. Commander'?

Commanders

Ryan Zimmerman, known as — among other nicknames — "Mr. National," retired earlier this week, ending a career that spanned 17 years but just one uniform. 

Zimmerman is a player recognized by all baseball fans but beloved by those who care about Washington. He's not going to the Hall of Fame — injuries robbed him of heading down that potential path — but he does reside at the top of numerous Nationals statistical categories and will forever be linked with the club.

And in reflecting on Zim's goodbye, this football blogger got to thinking: Who's going to emerge as "Mr. Commander"?

With the understanding that "Mr. Commander" is objectively one of the lamest labels ever, there is an opportunity for someone to take advantage of Washington's recent rebrand and become synonymous with the new name, much like Zimmerman did when the Nats were born. 

Everyone's probably thinking of the same guy right about now, too.

Though Terry McLaurin is only three seasons into his NFL life, he's already 15th all-time on the franchise's receiving yards list and, in 2021, became the first wideout from Washington to exceed 1,000 yards in back-to-back campaigns since the mid-1990s

It's not just about his on-field achievements, though. Like Zimmerman, McLaurin is more professional than a coated, double-sided business card, as he carries himself extremely well in dealings with the media and draws the respect of so many around the league. 

 

The one thing that could interrupt McLaurin's rise to "Mr. Commander" status, however, is obvious: He's about to enter the final season of his rookie contract, meaning his future could soon lead him elsewhere.

While Ron Rivera doesn't want folks to freak out about that fact, folks are going to freak out about that fact. McLaurin's next deal will be a thick one that the team will have to at least think about presenting, and McLaurin could simply opt to not negotiate in the hopes of landing with a more successful operation. 

That said, McLaurin still stands as the most likely to grow into a "Mr. Commander"-like role, thanks to his abilities and his approach.

Aside from him, there are a couple of additional candidates.

When the Football Team transformed into the Commanders, Washington used McLaurin, Chase Young and Jonathan Allen in their promotional videos and other materials. Fittingly, those are the other two players who could one day claim forever fan-favorite status.

After Young's first pro go-round, he seemed destined to, really; he's from the area (like Zimmerman), was drafted No. 2 overall and captured the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award.

In fact, his profile sure appeared like it was going to grow into one of the sport's largest, expanding well beyond the DMV.

An underwhelming second year and a torn ACL have, sadly, sapped a lot of momentum from Young's once-inevitable ascension. His ceiling may still be higher than McLaurin's but it surprisingly feels so far away at the moment. 2022 is setting up to be pivotal for No. 99.

As for Allen, he's also got ties to the local community, is locked in thanks to a 2021 extension and is coming off a statement season. What's working against him is his position — you've got to reach Aaron Donald-ish peaks to be consistently lauded at defensive tackle — and two incidents over the past few months that are unbecoming of the supposed leader that he is. 

Finally, there's this quite possible possibility: "Mr. Commander" isn't a Commander yet.

McLaurin, Young and Allen all possess appealing traits, but none of them line up at that little position called quarterback. Should Washington draft a signal-caller this April and then watch that passer mercifully develop into a serious threat, he'd be instantly adored thanks to how starved the team is for that to occur. That's the quickest way to solve this lack-of-an-icon dilemma. 

It has to be a draft pick, by the way. If Russell Wilson out-of-nowhere joins the Commanders, for example, he'll be worshipped in his own right, but he'll always be a Seahawk.

Zimmerman started and ended with the Nationals, and McLaurin, Allen, Young or the needed-answer at QB likely has to emulate him with the Commanders to be remembered so fondly.

 

There currently isn't a lot of belief in Washington that the Commanders can be all that competitive, much less a contender. A wide swath of fans aren't all that impressed with the new name and look, either.

In that respect, they find themselves in the same spot that the Nationals did when they first began hitting and pitching in 2005. Then Zimmerman came along and proved himself to be worthy of everyone's attention.

Now, "Mr. National" has decided to move on. Ready when you are, "Mr. Commander."