Commanders’ Rivera on decision to start Wentz: ‘I’m looking for a little bit of a spark’

Carson Wentz has an opportunity at redemption. On Wednesday, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera announced that Wentz would get the start for Washington(7-7-1) when they host the Cleveland Browns(6-9) on Sunday.

Wentz, who broke his ring finger against the Bears back in October and had not played in the last eight games, relieved an ineffective Taylor Heinicke against the 49ers last Sunday and threw a touchdown pass. 

Heinicke was 5-3-1 as a starter and helped Washington get into playoff contention, but he has struggled the past few weeks; Washington is 0-2-1 in their last three games.

Commanders head coach Ron Rivera explained the decision to go with Wentz.

“Well, just looking at a couple things,” Rivera said. “First off, I think seeing the way he played, how he handled things, I think where we are right now, I’m looking for a little bit of a spark, a little something different, and I think now’s a good opportunity for it.”

Wentz is excited about the opportunity.

“It feels good; it’s exciting,” Wentz said. “I think it’s exciting for me personally, but I think at the end of the day, it’s exciting for this team. We have a shot; like I said after the game, we control our own destiny, and to get to that point, this point in the season, after everything we’ve been through as a team, I think it means a lot to us. And we all know where we’re at. We all know what we’re capable of and what we’re up against. So, it’s exciting for us as a team. Obviously, I’m excited for my opportunity as well.”

The seventh-year quarterback got off to a slow start for the Commanders and was not playing all that well before the injury. However, at this point, Rivera thinks Wentz is more comfortable with the offense.

“Well, I think the biggest thing is he’s more comfortable with what we’re doing,” Rivera said. “That was evident in the game in spite of the fact that they knew we were gonna throw it. They kept coming, and I thought he handled those situations very, very well. He got the ball out a couple times, got it out to where they needed to be thrown. He threw some really nice balls. His decision-making was very quick. So, I just think that now he’s had a little bit more of an opportunity to see the rest of the offense, feel the rest of the offense. And I think that’s a big part of it. The other part, I think, is he got a little bit of a reset. He missed several games. He had an opportunity to heal up to, to look and feel better. I think that’s exactly where he is right now.”

Last season with the Colts, Wentz was in a similar position, where if Indy won one of their final two games, they would have made the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Colts lost both games and missed the playoffs.

If the Commanders, who are the seventh-seed in the NFC and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, win their last two games, they will get in.

Wentz is not thinking about last year; he’s focused on the here and now.

“I try not to think about that,” he said. “Every year, it just seems so different. There’s years that the season has ended positively and negatively. It’s a whole new different set of guys. It’s a different team. I’m wearing a different uniform, the whole nine yards. So, I’m gonna show up and try and do my job to the best of my ability, and hopefully, we like the result.”

Wentz is more talented than Heinicke, and Washington clearly believes that Wentz makes this offense better. Now, he has to go out and do what the Commanders brought him to do, which is get them to the playoffs. 

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