It’s not entirely clear how much of an inside track Sam Howell has on the Commanders starting quarterback job. If nothing else, it appears there are some in the organization bullish about his potential.
Carson Wentz already has been cut and Taylor Heinicke is a free agent, leaving the 2022 fifth-round pick as the lone quarterback on the roster.
The messaging from the Commanders has been that Howell will have a shot at winning the job, but that he’s not a shoo-in. Washington reportedly won’t be part of the Lamar Jackson sweepstakes, suggesting they might have their sights set on a Marcus Mariota/Baker Mayfield-type instead of a star.
Howell got the start in the regular season finale, his only action of the regular season. Former NFL quarterback Shaun King said on the "Ross Tucker Football Podcast" he thought playing Howell so little was a mistake.
“I had Sam Howell rated as my No. 1 quarterback in last year’s draft,” King said. “I had him in front of (Kenny) Pickett, in front of (Malik) Willis, in front of all those guys. I thought people were really overlooking what Sam Howell had done over his entirety at the University of North Carolina.
“I thought Ron Rivera and the Commanders organization made a big misstep when Carson Wentz – because I didn’t think they should have signed him at first, but once they traded for him they had to play him – but when he got hurt, they should have gone to Sam Howell then and given Sam almost a whole half a year to play and feel it out.
“Going to Taylor Heinicke, no offense to Taylor Heinicke … he seems like a neat guy, they had a whole year of him the year previous and decided that he wasn’t the guy for them moving forward. So then why not go to Sam Howell? I think a lot of times organizations make huge missteps when it comes to how to handle the quarterback position."
King then shared an interesting nugget: He relayed those very feelings to Eric Bieniemy.
“Sam, he didn’t light it up statistically but if you watched the games he played really well later in the season when he got his opportunity,” King said. “I’ve spoken to Eric Bieniemy and told him how I feel about Sam Howell, and he’s fired up to get the opportunity to work with the quarterback.”
The moves the Commanders make this offseason could help shed light on how the team really views Howell. In some ways, the overtures we’ve heard about Howell feel similar to all the reports that came out about Jarrett Stidham as the Tom Brady replacement in 2020 – only for New England to sign Cam Newton in July.
That’s not to say all the Howell talk is smokescreening, but Washington’s quarterback situation will be an interesting one to watch.
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