Josh Harris, Dan Quinn excited about what Commanders are building this offseason


ORLANDO, Fla. — Josh Harris keeps checking off boxes in his initial year as managing partner of the Washington Commanders.

There was training camp, the regular season, and firings and hirings with the football staff. Attending the NFL Scouting Combine put Harris in the mix as general manager Adam Peters and head coach Dan Quinn dug into quarterback prospects. The past few days at a swanky central Florida resort marked another milestone, but not for the fine dining or luxurious pool.

“My first annual (league) meetings in the NFL,” Harris exclaimed during a question-and-answer session with Washington beat reporters. He declared the meetings, which included notable rule changes and business announcements like scheduling two games on Christmas, even with the date falling on a Wednesday, as “super productive.”

“And obviously, we got some stuff done ourselves,” he said.

Harris seemed to reference an $86.5 million funding loan for stadium upgrades at the home facility without a corporate name approved by the other owners. He could have pointed to an overhauled roster and the new voices leading the way during the three-month sprint of hiring coaches, signing 22 external and internal free agents and preparing for April’s NFL Draft.

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“We’re all drinking from a fire hose,” Harris cracked about the group dealing with the jammed NFL calendar while learning to become a cohesive group. “But it’s an amazing opportunity to start with, in essence, somewhat of a blank slate. To bring together a new coach, new GM, new front office, new ownership, obviously, and that was really exciting. … You saw how we did in free agency, and now on to the draft. So, I think we’re building, and it’s exciting.”

One day after Peters met with reporters, Quinn and the other NFC head coaches held individual formal media sessions Tuesday. Here’s an overview of some highlights from Harris and Quinn.

Stadium status

The football moves made and pending are for a looming football season. Washington might not have a replacement for the aged stadium in Maryland’s Prince George’s County until the end of this decade. Along with those football choices, Harris and his partners are “focused on our new home.”

They aren’t alone in terms of the when and where.

“We’re in deep discussion with Maryland,” Harris said, “but at the same time, we’re continuing to pursue the possibility of having a site at RFK.”

Maryland has a home-field advantage. The District wins with nostalgia, but the hurdles are primarily “political,” Harris said. Though Congress agreed to turn over control of the RFK campus to the city, the Senate must act next before city officials can. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday said a new stadium in Washington is “warranted.”

Even if the choice is whether city officials will fund a massive chunk of a project that is likely to exceed $2 billion, there’s no guarantee the funds will be there. Monumental Sports steward Ted Leonsis might need to keep his NBA and NHL teams in Washington after trying to broker a new home for the Wizards and Capitals in Virginia.

If so, that might hamper the District’s ability to woo Harris and simultaneously incentivize Virginia, which hasn’t abandoned its Commanders stadium recruiting plans, into bold action to land a major pro sports franchise. Harris said his group is “super focused” on where the Monumental Sports scenario goes.

“We’re certainly watching it, looking at it and learning from it. But there’s not a lot we can do to affect that process, so we’re a little bit removed from it,” Harris said. “But clearly, what happens there could have implications.”

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‘If somebody thinks they know, they’ll have to fill me in’

That was Quinn’s comment when asked how he processes various reports and guesses as to what Washington will do with the No. 2 overall selection. Drafting a quarterback is the overwhelming leader in the clubhouse, though a trade down can’t be ruled out. The specific QB the Commanders would select is a mystery for a particular reason: They don’t know what they will do.

“That is absolutely accurate,” said a laughing Quinn. “And so, if somebody thinks they know, they’ll have to fill me in because Adam and I, we’re not there yet.” The coach shared that he is only now digging into heavy player tape after focusing on free agency.

LSU’s Jayden Daniels and North Carolina’s Drake Maye have been the assumed candidates, especially since the Chicago Bears appear locked into drafting USC’s Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick. In recent weeks, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy has emerged as an apparent contender for a top-five selection, with some second-pick buzz emerging in Orlando.

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Fans and others want answers since the draft effectively begins at No. 2. Washington has no interest in meeting such demands. There are pro days to attend — LSU on Wednesday, followed by UNC this week — and prospects to welcome for visits at the team’s Northern Virginia facility, along with additional information-gathering before making such a significant decision.

“Obviously, a very important pick,” Harris said. “And we have (six) picks in the top 100, and we’ve done it that way on purpose. So, it’s important for us to have a very strong draft, for sure.”

“I know quarterback gets a lot of attention, as it should,” Quinn said. “It’s a story here and everywhere. But there’s a lot of players (to evaluate) and … a lot of picks for this year’s draft. So, that’ll be one of the storylines, but it won’t be the storyline.”

I’m not an ‘F-minus’ guy

Harris isn’t referencing his school days but rather some grades on Washington’s organizational report card from the NFL Players Association following an anonymous vote among players. The Commanders ranked 32 out of 32 teams and received an F-minus for the treatment of families, the locker room and the training room.

“I didn’t know you could get an F-minus,” Harris joked about a matter he and his staff take seriously. They “jumped all over that” when they took control of the franchise last July and following the latest report card. Harris said there is an emphasis on improving “the player experience, the player lounge” and other matters and acknowledged that only so much can be accomplished before the next training camp.

The other consideration is how much to invest, knowing that plans include building a modern practice facility. As for whether that new facility should be located with the next stadium, Harris says that hasn’t been discussed yet, but “I don’t think the two necessarily have to be in the same place.”

“I mean, I think it works fine,” he said. “And especially when you have three jurisdictions, obviously you want to think about what’s the best thing to engage the whole community.”

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Suppose a single player represents the roster and game plan changes. In that case, ponder the free-agent safety. Chinn, the 2020 defensive rookie of the year runner-up to Chase Young, effectively replaced another safety, Kamren Curl, on the roster. Though Washington inked Chinn to a one-year contract during the legal tampering period, Curl’s two-year deal with the Los Angeles Rams was finalized later in the week.

“I think Kam’s a fantastic player, and I think he’ll continue to do great in LA,” Quinn said at the beginning of his answer about what he sought at safety. “When you’re looking … at safeties, there’s some that are down and play in the box (and) can play multiple roles, and that’s what I think Jeremy can do.”

Quinn sees Chinn “blitzing” and “guarding tight ends” while positioned by the line of scrimmage more than playing center field. “We want to play tight. We want to play aggressive,” the coach continued, “so the more man-to-man, the more blitzing ability, that’s what we’re looking for into that spot.”

Don’t take this as a suggestion that Curl lacks those traits or that the ex-Carolina Panthers player won out in a head-to-head decision. Curl demonstrated those skills, particularly in his early seasons with Washington when the “Buffalo Nickel” was all the rage. The 2020 seventh-round pick is the kind of in-house player teams love to retain when possible. But for Peters and Quinn, Curl was another free agent on the market, and they went in another direction.

The direction Quinn sees Chinn and Frankie Luvu moving in most often on game day is forward. That’s where the safety discussion needs to go now. We will surely revisit the debate during the season.

(Photo of Dan Quinn: Nathan Ray Seebeck / USA Today)





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