Headinging into the 2023 offseason, Ron Rivera and the Washington Commanders football brain trust had one message: We are going to give Sam Howell, a fifth round pick in 2022, a shot to be the team's starting quarterback this season.
And after bringing in Jacoby Brissett, a veteran with experience as both a backup and occasional starter, letting Taylor Heinicke leave for Atlanta, and passing on every quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Commanders appear ready to committ to giving the former North Carolina Tar Heel all of the opportunity to win the starting job.
But Howell, who played just one game in his rookie season and attempted only 19 passes (completing just 11), going to be good enough to lift Rivera's team from the mediocrity of seven to eight wins and make the playoffs in an NFC that lacks star power at quarterback?
"I do not see him as a playoff-caliber quarterback, I'm sorry," Matt Miller, NFL Draft analyst at ESPN, told 106.7 The Fan's Lynnell Willingham. "I know people wanna believe, I just don't. Coming out of college there was definitely talk in the lead-up to the season that he could be a QB1. It was him and Spencer Rattler were the toast of the town and it didn't work out for either guy.
"I had Sam rated as my No. 74 overall player and I compared him to Colt McCoy," Miller added. "Undersized, shorter guy, a little bit thicker body, not great arm strength. I know a lot of people said, 'He's Baker Mayfield.' I never thought he had as much twitch as a runner as Baker had, especially, at Oklahoma, but some of that ability to play on the move, to kinda be like more of a gamer in some ways, let's find a window, let's make the throw. I think we saw him pick some of that up toward the end of the year."
The one thing, though, is there are good weapons around Howell in the Commanders' offense, Miller said, and that when Howell had good weapons at UNC "he was cookin."
"I'm rooting for Sam Howell to prove me wrong," he said. "I thought he was better than a fifth-round pick, but I saw him topping out as a really good back-up or someone who would be a short-term starter in the NFL as opposed to a fifth-round steal who is gonna turn a franchise around."
Listen to the conversation above beginning at 19:05 above.
Follow @BenKrimmel for more.