The Washington Commanders played their first home game under the new ownership group led by Josh Harris on Monday night, defeating the Baltimore Ravens 29-28 in a thrilling preseason matchup. The Commanders fans who attended the game at FedEx Field expressed their excitement and optimism about the new era of Washington football.
New owners bring fresh energy and hope
The Commanders underwent a major change in the offseason, as former owner Dan Snyder sold his majority stake to Harris, the co-founder of Apollo Global Management and the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. Harris brought in a group of investors that included former Commanders players Joe Theismann, Gary Clark and Brian Mitchell, as well as former President Barack Obama.
The new owners have promised to revitalize the franchise, which has been mired in controversy and mediocrity for years. They have pledged to improve the fan experience, invest in the community, and build a winning culture. They have also hired a consulting firm to help them choose a permanent name and logo for the team, which is expected to be announced in February 2023.
The fans who spoke to WTOP News at the game said they were impressed by the new owners and their vision for the team.
“I think the entire organization has a breath of new life. I think the fan base is going to show up this year like myself. This is the first time I’ve supported the team since 2013 … but I’m back, I’m glad to be back … this is the first time I bought season tickets since 2012,” said Don Dudley.
“I think Josh Harris is going to run the team way better than Daniel Snyder ever could have. And I guess next season we’ll start seeing the true results, but this year, they can observe and see what kind of changes they need to make for next season, but we’re looking forward to this season as well,” said Jason of Bethesda.
Sam Howell shines as starting quarterback
Another reason for optimism among the Commanders fans is the performance of Sam Howell, the rookie quarterback who was named the starter by head coach Ron Rivera. Howell, who was drafted in the fifth round in 2022 out of North Carolina, showed poise and accuracy in his first preseason game at FedEx Field. He completed 19 of 25 passes for 188 yards and no interceptions, leading the Commanders to three scoring drives in the first half.
Howell said he wanted to earn the trust of his teammates, coaches and fans with his play.
“I wanted everybody to trust me, I wanted this organization to trust me, I wanted my teammates to trust me,” Howell said after the game.
Rivera praised Howell for his confidence and decision-making, saying he has no doubt that he is the right quarterback for the team.
“He’s got a lot of talent, he’s got a lot of potential. He’s very mature for his age, he’s very smart. He understands what we’re trying to do. He’s got a great rapport with his receivers, his offensive line, his running backs. He’s a leader,” Rivera said.
Commanders end Ravens’ record preseason win streak
The Commanders also made history on Monday night by ending the Ravens’ record 24-game preseason win streak, which dated back to 2015. The Commanders trailed 28-26 in the final minutes of the game, but Jake Fromm led them on a clutch drive that was aided by a defensive pass interference penalty on fourth-and-11. Joey Slye kicked a 49-yard field goal with 10 seconds left to give the Commanders a one-point lead. The Ravens had one last chance to win, but Tyler Huntley’s Hail Mary pass was intercepted by Jeremy Reaves as time expired.
The Commanders celebrated their dramatic victory on the field, while the fans cheered them on from the stands. It was a memorable night for everyone involved, and a sign of hope for what lies ahead.
“It’s a fresh start. It’s a new beginning … and I think people are going to come out and you’ll see the stands filled with burgundy and gold instead of the opposing team’s fans,” said KC Cole.