The Washington Commanders have a new quarterbacks coach. Former Stanford offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard is taking over the role with Ken Zampese being moved to Senior Offensive Advisor/Game Manager. Here are five things to know about one of the newest members of the coaching staff.
1. His first start at Stanford ended with an upset over USC.
There is always some level of stress that comes with getting your first start as a player, but that goes to another level when the opponent happens to be the No. 2-ranked team in the country.
Aside from a 37-0 win over San Jose State, Stanford struggled mightily at the start of the 2007 season with a 1-3 record. USC was already heavily favored in the matchup, and after Stanford's original starter, T.C. Ostrander, suffered a seizure that kept him out of the game, the Trojans were a 41-point favorite.
The game turned out to be much closer than that. USC only had a nine-point advantage by the start of the fourth quarter, but Pritchard and Stanford went on to outscore the Trojans 17-7 in the final 15 minutes. On the final drive, Pritchard completed a 20-yard pass to Richard Sherman on a fourth-and-20 to get his offense in range, and he sealed the game with 48 seconds left by completing a 10-yard pass to Mark Bradford.
Pritchard made perhaps the best first impression possible with the upset win, and it earned him more opportunities. He went on to start for the rest of the 2007 season and remained the Cardinal's starting signal-caller in 2008.
2. His uncle had an awesome nickname.
Pritchard was not the first person in his family to pursue a career in football. His father, David, was a starting center at Washington State, and his uncle went on to have a brief NFL career after a highly successful college career and had one of the better nicknames: Jack "the Throwin' Samoan" Thompson.
Thompson' nickname, which was given to him by Spokesman-Review columnist Harry Missildine, was earned after a standout sophomore season at Washington State that featured him throwing for 2,762 yards and 20 touchdowns with a passer rating of 134.7, all of which led the Pac-10 conference.
Thompson ended his career with several conference records in career attempts (1,086), completions (601) and touchdown passes (53). He was a three-time all-conference player, and he had his No. 14 jersey retired by the school.
3. He was promoted to offensive coordinator at an early age.
It did not take long for Pritchard to start his coaching career after finishing his senior year at Stanford. He participated in the San Francisco 49ers' rookie minicamp 2010 but did not get a contract with the team. Not long after that, he was hired as a volunteer assistant by Stanford, and in 2017, he was promoted to offensive coordinator at 30 years old.
In Pritchard's time as Stanford's offensive coordinator, eight offensive players were drafted: WR J.J. Arcega-Whiteside (2019 second round, Philadelphia), RB Bryce Love (2019 fourth round, Washington), TE Kaden Smith (2019 sixth round, San Francisco), TE Colby Parkinson (2020 fourth round, Seattle), OT Walter Little (2021 second round, Jacksonville), QB Davis Mills (2021 third round, Houston), C Drew Dalman (2021 fourth round, Atlanta) and WR Simi Fehoko (2021 fifth round, Dallas).
Over the course of his time as Stanford's offensive coordinator, Pritchard had multiple bright spots directing the offense. In 2018, his first season in the role, the team went 9-4 with the offense averaging 381 yards per games, including 273.1 through the air. In 2020, Stanford averaged 420.2 yards per game offensively, including 287.3 yards per game through the air and 132.8 on the ground. Stanford improved on third down and red-zone offense, while totaling 15 TDs on the ground in just six games vs. just eight rushing touchdowns in 2019 over 12 total games.
4. He knows how to get the most out of quarterbacks.
Much of Pritchard's time in Stanford was focused on quarterbacks, and there were a few signal-callers who managed to put together exceptional seasons under his direction.
In 2020, Pritchard coached quarterback QB Davis Mills, a third-round draft pick of the Houston Texans, who guided the team to a 4-2 record, including four straight wins to end the season during a COVID-19 shortened season. Mills earned honorable mention All-Pac-12, finishing 129-of-195 (66.2%) for 1,508 yards and 10 total touchdowns (7 passing, 3 rushing). His 301.6 passing yards per game was second best in the Pac-12.
Pritchard also coached QB Kevin Hogan, a fifth-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, during his final season at Stanford. Hogan led the team to the 2015 Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl win. He threw 27 touchdowns to eight interceptions and completed 67.8 percent of his throws. Hogan finished his career at Stanford with a school-best 36-10 record as a starter and ranked first in career total offense (10,634), second in completion percentage (.659) and passing efficiency (154.6), and third in passing yards (9,385) and passing touchdowns (75). He also set school records for career rushing yards (1,249) and touchdowns (15) by a quarterback.
5. He fits in with Eric Bieniemy's vision for the offense.
One of the benefits that Eric Bieniemy got from being named the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator was to have a bigger say in the offensive staff, and Pritchard was one of the first names that came up when it was reported that Bieniemy was looking to add new people to his staff.
It did not take long for head coach Ron Rivera to see why Bieniemy was so interested in hiring Pritchard.
"He's been in one place for a long time, but it's been a pro style type of offense," Rivera said at the combine. "He and Eric have had a relationship, I think, for the last ten years. So, they're very familiar with each other and you see it when we brought Tavita in and sat down. I visited with him and interviewed him and then listened to his philosophies on football and his ideas and stuff. I could see why he and Eric are very similar."
Rivera did not go into much detail about those similarities, but based on what we know about Bieniemy, we can get a glimpse of what Pritchard is like as a coach. Bieniemy values results, attention to details and a desire to finish plays.
If Bieniemy has had a relationship with Pritchard for about a decade, it's clear that Pritchard holds those same qualities in high regard.