Commanders must develop Sam Howell
Like every coach before him under the Dan Snyder regime that lasted more than two decades, Ron Rivera has yet to find a franchise quarterback. After inheriting Dwayne Haskins and releasing him during his first season, the head coach leaned on backups and reserves to win the division with a 7-9 record in 2020 and sneak into the playoffs.
He opted to throw in his chips on Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2021. That didn't even last one game after the journeymen signal-caller went down with an injury in Week 1.
Rivera turned to Taylor Heinicke to finish out the season - and while the undersized gun-slinger became a favorite among fans and his teammates - he has always appeared to be a solid backup at best.
Last season, Rivera, Martin Mayhew, and the upper management apparently explored all options at quarterback, reportedly making a run at Russell Wilson before ultimately signing Carson Wentz.
Wentz never looked remotely comfortable during the few games he started. After suffering an injury, the door for Heinicke once again.
With a wildcard spot still very much possible, Rivera opted to go with Wentz over Heinicke in a winnable Week 16 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. The former No. 2 overall selection failed miserably, Washington was knocked out of the playoff race, and the team got to see a glimpse of Sam Howell to close out the campaign.
While Howell fell to the fifth round, many NFL draft experts viewed him much higher. There appears to be clear optimism around the former North Carolina star - and if Rivera can turn a Day 3 selection into the franchise quarterback this team has been longing for, it will pay dividends for his future in Washington.
Eric Bieniemy was hired for a reason. Sure, there are some question marks on the offensive line and at tight end, but the former Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator came into a situation with a bevy of talent at his disposal.
Terry McClaurin has cemented himself as one of the top wideouts in the league, while Jahan Dotson appears to be another No. 1 on the opposite side. Curtis Samuel has flashed when healthy, but he's the kind of weapon Bieniemy can get creative with while designing quarterback-friendly packages.
Add the running back duo of Brian Robinson Jr. and Antonio Gibson into the mix, and the new Commanders' play-caller can craft an offense to maximize Howell's strengths. At least on paper.
Rivera is an old-school defensive-minded head coach. That's okay now that he's brought in an innovative offensive coordinator to develop a promising young quarterback.
While Howell will have head-scratching learning moments, the fan base wants to see this staff develop a future franchise presence under center. If he struggles mightily in the first four games and is replaced by Jacoby Brissett, that's a failure that will be noted by Josh Harris and the new owners.