NFL owners approved Josh Harris as Commanders owner on July 20, 2023. But it was Oct. 31, 2023 when the team officially became his -- his idea for how the roster should look, his idea for how the future will proceed. Washington traded away both Montez Sweat (to the Bears for a 2024 second-round pick) and Chase Young (to the 49ers for a 2024 third-round pick) on trade deadline day, a move that shows the team's direction under Harris will be a starkly different one than ever before.

First, let's talk about the reasons for the trade. Both Sweat and Young are free agents at season's end. The Commanders are 3-5 and have lost five of their last six games, to teams both good (the Eagles twice and the Bills) and bad (the Bears and the Giants). The defense ranks 31st in scoring and 29th in yards allowed.

Keep in mind this is a defense that was expected to carry the team as 23-year-old, former-fifth-round-pick quarterback Sam Howell adjusted and, hopefully, showed some signs he could finally stop the revolving door at the position. Keep in mind this was a defense that had four first-round picks on the defensive line -- Sweat and Young included -- as well as a first-round linebacker in Jamin Davis and a well-regarded secondary that included this year's first- and second-round picks in Emmanuel Forbes and Quan Martin.

The resources have been used, and they didn't live up to the task. Not even close.

Perhaps we should have seen the signs after the 40-20 home embarrassment against Chicago, after which CBS Sports NFL insider Josina Anderson reported Harris was concerned about how these performances would impact the fanbase. We definitely should have seen it coming after consecutive demoralizing losses to the Giants and Eagles -- two games CBS Sports Lead NFL insider Jonathan Jones reported would determine the team's next steps.

Because Harris officially took over in late July, it was a strange offseason for the Commanders, one in which spending and clarity was limited and coaching changes didn't officially happen until days before the season. As I wrote shortly two days before the opener, this was always going to be a transition season for the Commanders, but they couldn't afford for it to be a losing one.

It is a losing one once again. Rivera is 25-32-1 as Commanders head coach and hasn't posted a winning season. This year, given the on-paper manageable early schedule, Rivera needed a strong start. He didn't get it. The offense has had stops and starts under Howell and coordinator Eric Bieniemy but is on pace to be Washington's best offense in Rivera's tenure in terms of success rate. The defense is the reason Washington is where it is, and that's all the more damning for its coaches -- Rivera and coordinator Jack Del Rio -- and the front office -- GM Martin Mayhew and executive vice president of football/player personnel Marty Hurney -- who constructed it. They were all from the previous regime, and Harris gave them eight games to prove they could produce a winning product. They haven't.

When looking at the defensive line specifically, it never reached close to the sum of its parts. With Sweat and Young on the outside and Pro Bowlers Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne on the inside, this supposed game-wrecking force was instead just a talented bunch that flashed. When asked Monday about if the defensive line had met expectations, Rivera said, "Not consistently enough. You see it, but you've got to see it all the time and that's the mark of when it really comes together, when it's consistent."

Rivera has gotten plenty wrong in three-and-a-half seasons in Washington, but that answer was exactly right. The result is Tuesday's big day of trades and a focus towards the future.

Harris has been down this road before

Harris has never been shy. Coincidentally, his 76ers dealt James Harden to the Clippers in the wee morning hours Tuesday. More importantly for the Commanders, he has overseen complete rebuilds, not on-the-fly, hope-it-works bandaids the Commanders are used to (see: Alex Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz; it's too early to tell on Howell), but down-to-the-studs makeovers. The 76ers went through "The Process." The Devils had top-seven picks in four consecutive drafts from 2019-22. The Commanders now have five picks in the first three rounds of the 2024 draft. If they end up making all five, it will be for the first time in franchise history.

Perhaps in previous eras, the Commanders would have looked at the encouraging performances and said "We're close" and held tight at the deadline. Not with Harris in charge. The Athletic's Dianna Russini reported ownership was heavily involved in the deals. Perhaps the Commanders are "close" when assessing one-score losses to the Eagles in a vacuum. But throw in losses to the Bears and the Giants and they clearly were not (and are not) close. Harris doesn't do "close," and he smartly didn't think his newest franchise should, either.

Sweat was one of 10 Washington draftees in 2019. After today's trade, only one of those players -- Terry McLaurin -- is left. The Chase-led 2020 class has produced some better results thanks to seventh-rounders Kamren Curl and James Smith-Williams. But of the six Washington draftees in the first five rounds, only Young developed into a consistent starter, and I used "consistent" loosely; he played in just 34 of a possible 58 games with Washington, a major reason Washington "only" received a third-round pick in the trade.

That sort of track record combined with this season's results make it difficult to envision Harris not making wholesale changes in a few months. He bought the 76ers in 2011 and there was a new top executive in 2012 and a new head coach by 2013. He bought the Devils in 2013 and had a new coach by late 2014 and a new GM by 2015. He has already brought in a new senior vice president of football strategy.

This is where the next few months will prove crucial for Washington -- not on the field, where the losses will likely pile up, but what comes after. It's nice to have the picks. They signal a new direction. What Washington does with those picks -- and more importantly who is making them -- will ultimately determine how well Harris' first big call as Commanders owner turns out.