Sam Howell benching provides déjà vu for Commanders head coach Ron Rivera

Ron Rivera continues to confound...
Sam Howell
Sam Howell / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera benching quarterback Sam Howell is eerily similar to the situation that presented itself last season.

It might be a new year, but we still have the same old Ron Rivera as head coach of the Washington Commanders.

After benching Sam Howell against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, Rivera initially said it was because he was trying to take care of the young quarterback. With things spiraling, the coach didn't want any further damage.

Howell had only been sacked once in the game and only faced a 6.2 percent pressure percentage, per Pro Football Reference. Was sitting him a method of protection?

Commanders QB issues come full circle for Ron Rivera

This is a quarterback that the Commanders are trying to evaluate to see what the plan is in the draft next year. Rivera won't be here for that, so I guess it's not his problem, right?

Later in the week, when Rivera was asked again about the benching, he mouth-vomited saying a whole lot of nothing. But he hinted that the benching was more performance-based. Trademark Ron.

But why should we be surprised? This is reminiscent of when Taylor Heinicke was benched in Week 16 against the San Francisco 49ers last season. Although he was 13-for-18 for 166 passing yards and two touchdowns against the top-ranked defense in the NFL, he had two turnovers - a fumble lost and an interception - in three plays.

At that point, Rivera inserted Carson Wentz into the game, with Washington down 30-14. The struggling veteran led an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive - capped off with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Curtis Samuel.

Wentz finished the game a respectable 12-for-16 for 123 passing yards and a touchdown. After the game, Rivera mentioned that he thought Heinicke played pretty well and a lot of things weren't his fault. But he didn't want to see didn't the Niners tee off on the quarterback.

We all know what happened next.

Wentz got the start the following week. He quickly showed that the late-game success accomplished versus San Francisco was just a mirage.

The former first-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles went 16-for-28 for 143 passing yards. Wentz threw three interceptions in a 24-10 loss, eliminating Washington from playoff contention.

You remember that infamous Rivera interview, don't you? The one where he seemed completely unaware that the Commanders could be eliminated from contention with another reverse. In many ways, this is a microcosm of his tenure with the organization.

After Rivera returned to Wentz, there was no way Heinicke would want to come back into the lineup and close out the season. This ultimately ended his time in Washington on a sour note, paving the way for Howell to get his one and only rookie start against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18.

Here we are less than a year later and Rivera once again decided to bench his starting quarterback and watched his team get eliminated from playoff contention. History does repeat itself. Unfortunately for the Commanders, not in a good way.


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