Ron Rivera challenged Sam Howell to earn the Washington Commanders starting quarterback job. He passed with flying colors.
Although it seemed inevitable, the Washington Commanders are officially moving forward with Sam Howell as their QB1 next season. This comes heading into their second preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at FedEx Field on the bright Monday night lights of ESPN.
Ron Rivera laid down the gauntlet to Howell this offseason. He also showed a tremendous amount of faith in the former fifth-round selection.
Despite the signal-caller having one career start under his belt, the Commanders brought in Jacoby Brissett as the only viable alternative. This was a strong indicator that the head coach wanted him to earn everything projected to come his way during the preparation period.
Commanders made Sam Howell earn QB1 gig in 2023
Howell got a rude awakening from Eric Bieniemy early on about specific demands and what needs to improve. He took everything on board, earned the trust of his teammates, and gained enough self-confidence to correct his own mistakes while taking complete charge of the huddle along the way.
Perhaps the final test for Howell was joint practices with the Ravens. After a polished display and following conversations with staff members, Rivera stated via CBS Sports that the time is right to give the one-time North Carolina stud the keys to the kingdom.
"I talked with Eric Bieniemy and Tavita [Pritchard] yesterday, and after our first preseason game, after both those join practices, I'm gonna name Sam our starter this year going forward. He basically met the challenge that we talked about, and that was seeing the growth and improvement from OTAs and minicamp and then talked about going into training camp: continue to grow, show us what he's capable of, and we've been very pleased with it to the point where I decided yesterday that we were gonna name him the starter going into the regular season."- Ron Rivera via CBS Sports
Howell might have been in pole position from the outset, but he can look back on the last few weeks with an enormous sense of pride. He also thoroughly deserves the opportunity to finally become the Commanders' franchise presence under center - something this proud organization has craved for decades.
The gunslinger is also the first starting quarterback under the new ownership regime. While this is a prestigious honor, it also comes with some significant pressure with jobs in the palm of Howell's hands.
If Howell works out and the Commanders reach the postseason, Rivera will look like a genius and keep his job, one suspects. But if it all goes wrong, Josh Harris' ownership group will probably press the reset button across the board.
That is how much is riding on Howell in 2023.
The magnitude of such an honor wasn't lost on Howell after a heart-to-heart with Rivera during his post-practice media availability. He was also supremely confident in his ability to get the Commanders where they want to go next season via Pro Football Talk.
"He [Ron Rivera] just told me that he’s excited for me, he believes in me and he trusts me. To hear that from him means a lot. I’m always confident in my abilities. I’m always confident in my ability to come out and perform for this football team. All my work is ahead of me. This is only the beginning, I have a lot of work ahead of me, and that’s what I’m focused on right now."- Ron Rivera via Pro Football Talk
The Commanders are completely behind Howell. His teammates believe in the player, coaches are confident, and the fans have warmed to the laid-back individual that turns into a ruthless killer between the white lines.
What comes next is a journey into the unknown for all involved. However, the biggest thing is that everyone is in it together with a collective purpose as Washington embarks on an exciting new era on and off the field.
Buckle up. This is going to be fun.