Commanders bench Carson Wentz again after fumbling playoff hopes

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The quarterback carousel keeps spinning in Washington.

The Commanders are benching Carson Wentz again for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Cowboys, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Taylor Heinicke will reportedly get the start at home, with rookie backup Sam Howell slated to finish the game. Howell, a fifth-round pick in 2022, has yet to make his NFL debut.

The quarterback move comes after the Commanders put up just 10 points in a loss Sunday to the Browns, who eliminated Washington from playoff contention. Wentz — who was 16-of-28 for 143 yards — threw three interceptions in his first start since returning from a surgically-repaired broken finger he sustained in Week 6.

After the loss, head coach Ron Rivera said he did not regret his decision to start Wentz over Heinicke.

The Commanders are reportedly benching quarterback Carson Wentz for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Cowboys.
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Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz runs the ball against Browns safety Grant Delpit #22 during the second quarter at FedExField on Jan. 1, 2023 in Landover, Maryland.
Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz runs the ball against Browns safety Grant Delpit during the second quarter at FedExField on Jan. 1, 2023 in Landover, Maryland.
Getty Images

“No, because to me it was always about winning and that it was in our hands,” Rivera told reporters Monday. “I mean, we controlled our destiny basically and that’s the truth of the matter. Being 0-2-1 in the last three games was probably a thing that really pushed me more than anything else. And that’s what I looked at. And as I said, coming off of the last quarter of the 49ers game, I was relatively optimistic in terms of dealing with what Carson could do.

“I thought we could run the ball. I think we could have run the ball a little bit better even though we did run it well. And I think that could have helped us a little bit more. But again, it’s the decision that was made because I felt we needed a little something, after going that stretch of 0-2-1.”

Rivera, though, said he contemplated reverting back to Heinicke, but ultimately stuck with Wentz when Washington fell behind by 14, as he knew some downfield throws would be necessary, according to ESPN.

Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of a game at Levi's Stadium on Dec. 24, 2022 in Santa Clara, California.
Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke looks to pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of a game at Levi’s Stadium on Dec. 24, 2022 in Santa Clara, California.
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Commanders quarterbacks  Carson Wentz (11) and Taylor Heinicke (4) during their loss to the Giants at FedEx Field on Dec. 18, 2022.
Commanders quarterbacks Carson Wentz (11) and Taylor Heinicke (4) during their loss to the Giants at FedEx Field on Dec. 18, 2022.
The Washington Post via Getty Im

Heinicke was benched following a dip in performance in back-to-back losses to the Giants and 49ers. He was replaced by Wentz in the fourth quarter against San Francisco.

Washington went 5-3-1 with Heinicke as the starter after Wentz broke his right ring finger on Oct. 13. The 29-year-old is a free agent after this season.

Wentz — whom the Colts traded to the Commanders this offseason — will be inactive on Sunday in what could be his last game with Washington. The 30-year-old has two years left on his contract, with no guaranteed money.

Wentz started the first six games of the season, completing 144 of 232 passes for 1,489 yards, 10 touchdown passes and six interceptions. In that time, the quarterback was also sacked 23 times and fumbled six times.



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