The Washington Commanders might not be going anywhere fast in 2023, but they have found their long-term quarterback in Sam Howell beyond all doubt.
After another heartbreaking loss at the Seattle Seahawks moved the Washington Commanders to 4-6 through 10 games, it appears as if there will be no postseason football once again for Ron Rivera.
The head coach came into the campaign fighting for his job. But with no obvious progression, the prospect of Josh Harris' ownership group making wholesale changes across the board becomes more likely with every passing defeat.
The writing is on the wall for Rivera and others in positions of power. However, there is one positive above all else to emerge from another season of underachievement…
Commanders have their franchise QB in Sam Howell
Sam Howell is the team's franchise quarterback.
It's been an exhausting search for a genuine presence under center in Washington. Robert Griffin III's spark was dimmed quickly due to injury and mismanagement of Kirk Cousins' contract situation meant he left and thrived with the Minnesota Vikings.
Following a constant stream of failed trades, suspect draft picks, and coaches not properly developing talent, that's all changed this season. Rivera hitched his wagon to Howell throughout the offseason and the former fifth-round selection has responded by putting together a highly encouraging campaign overall.
There's been the odd blip and it's still a gradual process for the young signal-caller. But Howell looks increasingly comfortable and the North Carolina product seems to relish the big moments to further raise optimism.
This was a best-case scenario situation for the Commanders. Howell has responded well to Eric Bieniemy and Tavita Pritchard's development methods, growing in stature with every game and taking every error in judgment as a learning experience.
It's no surprise to see this mindset come across during interactions with the media. Howell was more focused on what he could do to improve via SB Nation despite another 300-yard, three-touchdown performance that moved him to No. 1 in the NFL's passing yards table.
"Yeah, it’s tough. You got to go back and watch the film and look at the reasons that we had those few three-and-outs — I don’t know how many three-and-outs we had. Seems like a lot. You got to go back and look at why those things were happening. Obviously establishing the run helps, but I got to do a better job making quicker decisions, getting the ball out faster. Had a couple sacks. We just got avoid the negative plays and do a good job on first and second down so that way we have — we’re in third and manageable situations."- Sam Howell via SB Nation
This constant need to strive for improvements is the hallmark of any great signal-caller around the league. No matter if Rivera stays or not, Harris and his team of wealthy investors should realize what a special player they have in Howell and should build around him accordingly.
Washington is blessed with rich draft assets and boasts a large amount of salary-cap space. Howell being on a fifth-round rookie contract for two more seasons also helps this process considerably.
If it doesn't work out, the Commanders can move on with minimal fuss. But make no mistake, Howell has earned the right to get another opportunity in 2024 whether a new coaching staff steps into the breach or not.
Howell's poise, high character, steely determination, and ability to come through in clutch situations have been an absolute revelation for the Commanders this season. And the best thing about all this? He's only going to get better with more experience.
The Commanders have a multitude of problems. Thankfully, the quarterback is no longer one of them.