Washington's quarterback acquisition last offseason was a 38-year-old who had never been a part of a playoff team but had been a part of eight different NFL teams in his long, winding career. Washington's quarterback acquisition this offseason is a 29-year-old who's been quite vital to a couple of postseason trips and was once voted as the league's third-best player by his fellow peers.
Going off of those two sentences, the vibes around the Commanders should be much better now than they were 12 months ago — but they aren't.
A lot goes into explaining why that's the case.
The only areas that Ryan Fitzpatrick is superior to Carson Wentz in are nicknames and the ability to grow facial hair. By almost any other measure — age, upside, natural ability, size, athleticism, touchdown-to-interception ratio — Wentz is clearly a more preferable option to Fitz.
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The problem for Wentz, though, is where his stock is compared to where Fitzpatrick's was last March.
Wentz is fresh off of a fairly horrifying conclusion to his stint in Indianapolis, one that he was encouragingly accountable for last week but still in charge of when it originally happened. That's on top of a more general, horrifying time in Philadelphia, one that started with MVP-caliber play yet ended with injuries, a benching and serious questions about his leadership.
Fitzpatrick, on the other throwing hand, had enjoyed two rather productive years in Miami, seemingly improving as he approached 40. His exit from the Dolphins wasn't as unceremonious as Wentz's departure from the Colts, plus Fitzpatrick's reputation was sparkling.
Then there's the price Ron Rivera's club paid for each passer.
Wentz cost the Commanders multiple draft picks and is set to make a hefty $28 million this fall. As for Fitzpatrick, he was signed as a free agent (as opposed to landed in a trade) and his maximum salary with the club was reported to be $10 million. Those are two very different kinds of investments.
The sharp contrast in outlooks for the franchise doesn't just have to do with the quarterbacks, either.
Heading into 2022, there's intense pressure on Rivera to win more than seven contests, the defensive line to prove that it can be as productive as its on-paper names suggest it should be and the front office to show that it can identify the right talent after committing a lot to William Jackson III, Curtis Samuel and Jamin Davis, all of whom struggled with their new organization.
Those feelings are a lot harsher than how many viewed 2021, where Rivera was coming off a seven-win season that culminated in a sloppy-but-still-real playoff berth, the defensive line appeared poised to establish itself as one of the NFL's best and the front office was riding high after finding the likes of J.D. McKissic and Logan Thomas on cheap deals.
Wentz is stepping onto a ship with tattered sails and holes in the hull. Fitzpatrick's ship, meanwhile, looked to be heading on the correct route and solidly-constructed.
Now that Fitzpatrick's "tenure" in Washington is done — it lasted all of six attempts before a trip to injured reserve — all of the optimism that surrounded it is rather silly in hindsight. That failure provided those who care about the team with their latest reminder that expectations do not equal results.
Therefore, how everything seems with Wentz now on the roster will be meaningless should he take advantage of the chance the Commanders are handing him, the defensive line (and defense as a whole) is more in sync come September and Jackson III, Samuel, Davis and other flailing contributors stop flailing.
The pre-Fitz excitement was palpable — and that excitement was soon erased. The Commanders are hoping that the lack of pre-Wentz excitement, which is also palpable, is also erased — and soon replaced by victories and satisfaction.