Russell Wilson, reality and the Commanders painful QB search


Tuesday ranked as a rough day for the Washington Commanders, and from an on-field perspective, probably the worst day for the franchise under the new moniker.

For the second straight season, a difference-maker quarterback chose not to come to Washington.

Last year, Matthew Stafford never seriously gave Washington much consideration in his trade pursuits.

On Tuesday, Russell Wilson did the same thing.

Wilson was THE HOME RUN for a franchise desperate to both start winning on the field and get fans returning to FedEx Field.

A Super Bowl winner, nine-time Pro Bowler and husband to superstar Ciara, Wilson presented the steak and the sizzle, an option not seen in a Washington quarterback in decades, if ever.

What makes matters worse is Wilson elected to go to Denver, a good team with a lot of young skill-position talent, but hardly an easy landing spot. The Broncos play in a QB-rich division the AFC West in a QB-rich conference.

Wilson basically chose to battle Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert year after year just to win an AFC West title, which could make for epic games but an uphill climb to a playoff spot. And should Denver advance from that division, passers like Joe Burrow in Cincinnati and Josh Allen in Buffalo are also in the way if Wilson wants to win the conference.

Making matters worse for Commanders fans, Washington didn't put out a lowball offer. Sources told NBC Sports Washington that the Commanders were ready to send three first-round picks and players to Seattle in exchange for Wilson.

Instead, Seattle accepted Denver's offer, which was significant, but arguably lower than Washington's. It's only common sense, of course, that the Seahawks preferred to send Wilson out of the NFC, keeping the threat of a possible playoff game against their former passer limited.

Don't be distracted by Aaron Rodgers' gigantic new deal with the Green Bay Packers. He was never coming to Washington. Ever.

Wilson, the Richmond, Va. native who played most of his college career at North Carolina State before a year at Wisconsin, might have. Maybe. Perhaps.

But he didn't.

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Now for two straight offseasons, the biggest QB name to move will have been connected to the Commanders only to land west of the Mississippi.

It's easy to point the finger at ownership. Dan Snyder is hardly a favorite around the league, but players rarely bring ownership into their decisions. The checks will clear.

That's in a direct capacity though.

Washington's facilities are among the worst in the NFL, both the practice center and their home stadium. Ownership can change facilities, but a timeline for those changes is anything but certain for the Commanders.

More than anything is the losing.

Washington has one playoff win in 20 years and is in the midst of six straight losing seasons. Ron Rivera has a sterling reputation around the league, but he's swimming upstream trying to overhaul the Commanders' league-wide image. On and off the field.

Consider this - it was about 10 years ago that Mike Shanahan tried to recruit Peyton Manning to Washington. Manning said thanks but no thanks and headed to Denver. Eventually, Manning won another Super Bowl.

In the past few weeks, Rivera tried to lure Russell Wilson to Washington. Wilson said thanks but no thanks and headed to Denver.

It's unknown if Wilson will win another Super Bowl, but it's clear he believes his chances are better with the Broncos than in D.C. 

That's hard enough to swallow for Commanders fans, but arguably the most painful pill is that it's hard to see an end to this tunnel of decay.

There's Houston's Deshaun Watson, a great player but one with a litany of legal and civil issues. He could be the answer on the field, if he's allowed on the field, and if he says yes to Washington. Those decisions will be put on hold for a bit as Watson's legal team reckons with an upcoming deposition.

What isn't on hold, and what's so damaging to fans that remember this team and its previous glories, is that Washington is no longer just a has-been.

The Commanders might be a new name, but the organization has become one that the best players avoid.

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