The Washington Commanders were eliminated on Sunday evening, but even the possibility of that happening was apparently news to Commanders head coach Ron Rivera.
Following Washington's 24-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns, Rivera took questions from the media. When one reporter asked him a question about his quarterback strategy next week if the Commanders are eliminated on Sunday, Rivera paused for several seconds before asking this question:
"We can be eliminated?"
He seemed genuinely surprised to hear that the Commanders could be eliminated just a few hours later.
Rivera tried to clarify his comments with ESPN's Washington reporter John Keim, though it didn't do much good. He said he was only focused on what would happen if Washington won, and that he didn't consider the alternative.
Just hours later, the Commanders were officially eliminated from the playoffs after the Green Bay Packers blew out the Minnesota Vikings 41-17 at Lambeau Field. That was part of a larger chain of events that needed to happen in order to knock Washington out, which included the Commanders' loss and the Chicago Bears' loss to the Detroit Lions.
It's understandable for a head coach to have a brain fart and blank on the name of a team or a player. It happens to everyone, even the most high-functioning individuals. But what happened with Rivera here isn't that. He didn't forget one part of the elimination scenario, or the name of one of the teams involved. He appeared to have absolutely no idea the Commanders could be eliminated on Sunday.
The job of a head coach is to prepare their team for any and all scenarios, both on and off the field. If Rivera had known the Commanders could be eliminated, would that have affected his decision to start quarterback Carson Wentz, who threw three interceptions and zero touchdowns against the Browns on Sunday? Would he have considered starting Taylor Heinicke, or maybe benched Wentz for Heinicke during the game?
Unfortunately, it doesn't matter what he would have done. The game is already finished and in the books, and the Commanders' fate is out of their hands.