What should Commanders QB Sam Howell make of Ron Rivera’s comments?

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Eric Bieniemy and Sam Howell
(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports) Eric Bieniemy and Sam Howell /

What can Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell make of head coach Ron Rivera’s latest comments about his status in 2023?

All signs point to Sam Howell entering OTAs with every chance of becoming the Washington Commanders’ starting quarterback in 2023. The player left a notable impression during his one and only start as a rookie, which made the decision to release Carson Wentz all the easier after the trade bombed out pretty early on.

The Commanders are keeping all their options open currently. Not entirely unusual for this time of year, but the North Carolina product will be given a legitimate opportunity to carve out a prominent role for himself once preparations ramp up for the upcoming campaign.

Eric Bieniemy’s arrival is another thing working in Howell’s favor. The new assistant head coach/offensive coordinator played a pivotal role in Patrick Mahomes’ early development on the Kansas City Chiefs, which is magic he can also work with the 2022 fifth-round pick if they hit it off right out of the gate.

Ron Rivera laid down the gauntlet to Commanders QB Sam Howell

However, Howell’s path to the No. 1 job might not be clear-cut if Ron Rivera‘s recent comments at the NFL Scouting Combine are any indication. The head coach was keen to point out that competition is coming and it’s up to the second-year-pro to leave no doubt he is the man to lead this organization back to prominence.

"“He’s not our starter. He’s coming in as the QB1. He’ll get a great opportunity to be our starter. But we do want to find a veteran quarterback. We have Taylor Heinicke that’s a free agent. We’ve got to work through that as well. And we’ll see what happens from there.”"

This shouldn’t be surprising to Howell. He knows that nothing will be handed to him outright, so it’s down to how the signal-caller takes on board Bieniemy’s system and establishes himself as someone that can install belief in the huddle.

Rivera has laid down the gauntlet to Howell. How he responds will be critical for the player’s short and long-term aspirations as an NFL starter.

The likes of Bieniemy, Terry McLaurin, and even Rivera have been glowing in praise of Howell in recent weeks. But if the Commanders feel like a better option is available, they won’t hesitate to strike.

Simply put, it’s a positive and precarious situation at the same time for Howell.

The player is not lacking in confidence and has all the motivation in the world after taking such a tumble during the 2022 NFL Draft. So much will depend on how much he’s taken on board during a season of sitting before Week 18 last time around.

Howell has a head start in terms of knowing what Rivera demands and chemistry with his teammates. But the head coach cannot gamble his own future on someone if he’s not entirely convinced.

This is arguably the most interesting remaining dynamic on the playing side this off-season. What comes next is down to Howell.

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