Somewhere between frustration and disappointment, the Washington Football Team looks back at a lost 2021 season with a clear focus on obtaining a quarterback for 2022.
Asked Tuesday if Washington might need to find a quarterback this offseason, head coach Ron Rivera laughed and said, "That's an understatement."
While there are plenty of quarterbacks out there, the best are either already on another team or waiting to be drafted.
And for the first time as Washington's boss, it sounds like Rivera is ready to make the big move necessary to land one.
"It's not just about the reluctance to do it, but are we in position to do it? I think we've put ourselves in pretty good position."
Last offseason, Washington did not match the trade price that Los Angeles paid to acquire veteran QB Matt Stafford from Detroit, the best passer available. Looking back, Rivera explained that his team was not yet in a position to pay the freight required for a top-flight passer, but now, that might be different.
"As we look at all avenues and we sit down and we talk about trading, whether it's trading for a player or trading up in the draft — what will it take? — we can have an earnest conversation where we may say, 'It's going to take not just draft picks, but it may take a core player or two.' With the depth we have at certain positions, we might be."
Rivera's comments came via the Washington Football Talk Podcast, and the coach explained his team can seriously consider a litany of moves to acquire a quarterback. Asked specifically about trade possibilities, Rivera seemed ready to explore all options.
"Yeah, that's a possibility."
After winning the NFC East in 2020, Washington entered the 2021 season with Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starter. A veteran with a wild track record of highlights and lowlights, Fitzpatrick had not started across a full 16-game season since 2015 and got hurt in the season opener.
That opened the door for backup Taylor Heinicke, a fan favorite and tremendous underdog story.
It's not that Heinicke was bad in 15 starts — he wasn't — but for as much exciting and likable play he delivered last year, it's also clear he is not the quarterback to deliver Washington deep into the playoffs next season or beyond. Heinicke remains a part of Washington's future, but he won't be alone.
That means the Burgundy and Gold will need to add another passer, and expect the speculation to run rampant about the position.
The new league year opens in mid-March, and with that, free agency. But elite QB options rarely hit the open market.
If Washington wants to find a true franchise quarterback, and it seems obvious that's what Rivera wants, the most likely options are a trade for a veteran or drafting a promising rookie.
In what's alleged to be a down rookie crop, maybe the player Washington wants slides to their spot, the 11th overall pick.
"I'm not afraid to play rookies," Rivera said.
Once the NFL Draft hype machine gets working, however, quarterback stock tends to rise. As for a veteran passer on the trade market?
It takes two to tango.
Rivera pushed back at the notion a star quarterback would not like to land in D.C. He talked about a solid offensive line and weapons like Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson.
"One thing you got to be able to do with your QB is protect him, and we've got a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver," the coach said.
Still, for all the talk of a new home in 2022 for Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson or Deshaun Watson, nobody knows if there will actually be any movement. Derek Carr? Jimmy Garoppolo? Baker Mayfield? It's all just conversation.
Until it isn't.
Rivera sounds quite serious about turning over every rock to find the passer this team needs.
In two seasons as the boss in Washington, Rivera's teams have twice won seven games. They made the playoffs in 2020, and looked poised for another playoff spot in 2021 before a run of late-season trouble, including a major COVID outbreak and two tragic events with players' loved ones.
Still, once the 2022 season starts, few will think about the circumstances surrounding the end of the 2021 season.
Fans want a quarterback. And it sounds like Rivera does too, and for the first time in Washington, the coach is ready to pay up.