Why won't Ron Rivera name Sam Howell as Commanders QB1?

It seems like a foregone conclusion, so why wait?
Sam Howell
Sam Howell / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Why won't Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera name Sam Howell as the team's starting quarterback despite it being glaringly obvious?

It was another worthwhile experience for Sam Howell as the Washington Commanders locked horns with the Baltimore Ravens for two joint practices this week. The quarterback didn't look fazed by the occasion, producing the goods against a competitive defense and emerging from the sessions with tremendous credit along the way.

This is another challenge ticked off for Howell ahead of becoming the Commanders' starting signal-caller in 2023. The move represents a significant gamble from head coach Ron Rivera, especially considering many in positions of power are firmly on the hot seat as Josh Harris' ownership group assesses everything across the franchise before drawing conclusions.

Rivera and Howell's success will be tied next season and potentially beyond if everything goes well. The respected figurehead hasn't had the best luck when it comes to quarterback evaluations aside from Cam Newton, so one more false move is likely going to come with grave consequences.

Commanders will discuss and assess Sam Howell this week

When asked about Howell and whether or not he's confirmed as the team's No. 1 option over veteran free-agent signing Jacoby Brissett, Rivera gave a diplomatic response via CBS Sports. He didn't commit one way or another, although that could change when discussions with the coaching staff get underway upon returning to the team facility.

"Well, again, I said I gotta sit down with both [offensive coordinator] Eric [Bieniemy] and [QBs coach] Tavita [Pritchard] and really evaluate it and make sure he's doing the things that we need him to do. And yesterday he had a really good day. We're really pleased with it after having to watch the tape, and we'll see how it is after we get a chance to watch this tape together. We're traveling today, so we'll sit down tomorrow and go through it and talk about Sam and really just evaluate that."

Ron Rivera via CBS Sports

Howell's been in pole position from the start of early workouts and has done nothing to alter this perception. The quarterback competition result is a foregone conclusion, but Rivera's probably keen not to jump the gun before speaking to Tavita Pritchard and Eric Bieniemy to lean on their respective assessments.

After all, Rivera cannot afford to have another circus that developed when he revealed in-house information about certain players being unhappy with Bieniemy's coaching style. A major foot-in-the-mouth moment.

The former fifth-round pick is growing in stature, enhancing his self-confidence, and has the belief of both teammates and Washington's loyal fanbase. Howell has a solid foundation from which to build heading into his first campaign as a full-time NFL starter, but this is still a journey into the unknown for everyone involved.

Howell might be a little rough around the edges, but he possesses traits that cannot be taught. The Commanders are hoping these can be harnessed into productivity when it matters most, and Rivera's been keen for the North Carolina product to earn everything coming his way throughout the offseason.

Everything's gone as or perhaps even better than expected where Howell is concerned. It's only a matter of time before he's confirmed as QB1, but the Commanders don't want complacency setting in so close to the regular season getting underway against the Arizona Cardinals at FedEx Field.

The Commanders have hope under center for the first time in years. What's important for Howell is harnessing this positively en route to proving his pre-draft doubters wrong.

So far, so good.