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It’s becoming abundantly clear why QB Taylor Heinicke has the full respect of his locker room in the nation’s capitol.
Following an abysmal performance from Carson Wentz that led to the Washington Commanders to a loss that signified just five playoff appearances since 2000 for the franchise, speculation swirled from the die-hards on who would be starting signal caller in the final meaningless game of yet another disappointing campaign.
Around 9AM on Wednesday morning, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported Heinicke would start vs. the Cowboys, but noted Howell was in the plan to see the field throughout the game.
But in typical Washington fashion, news changes by the minute.
Heinicke — who led the Commanders to a (5-3-1) record after the team fell to (1-4) under Carson Wentz — stepped up in a major way when he heard the plan from the coaching staff vs. the Cowboys.
Shortly before 3PM, Fowler changed his report noting that Heinicke himself approached the coaches and told them Sam Howell deserved his full shot.
People can bash his talent, but the former Old Dominion and XFL gun-slinger has proven himself as one of the most selfless players in the league.
Is Sam Howell the long-term future in D.C.?
Ron Rivera and company agreed. The 5th-round draft pick will make his first start against the team’s bitter rival at home on Sunday.
“If Sam ever gets the opportunity to be a starter, this would be the chance. Why not get it over with now and go from there?” Rivera said.
Maybe the “why not get over with now” comment wasn’t meant as many received it, but it certainly felt like Rivera wants to trot his rookie out into an impossible situation because he doesn’t believe he can be the guy moving forward.
There’s no denying Howell was one of the hottest quarterbacks in the nation during his collegiate tenure at UNC.
The decision gives Washington a chance to evaluate the young quarterback before next season… well for at least one game against one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Howell finished third in ACC history with 92 career passing touchdowns, which are the most ever by a player in three or fewer seasons. He ranks fifth in total touchdowns (111), eighth in total offense (11,292 yards), fifth in passing yards (10,283), second in passing yards per game (277.9) and second in passing efficiency (164.2).
When will the QB misery end for Washington Commanders fans?
I’ll admit, I’m a lifelong die-hard fan when it comes to this team.
But the facts and figures surrounding the inability to secure a franchise passer are beyond laughable at this point. As Jake Russell notes, Sam Howell will become the 35th Washington QB to start a regular season game since the 1993 season.
Sure, there were some memorable moments with Rypien (before my time) and the Monday Night Miracle from Mark Brunell to Santana Moss over the Cowboys. RG3’s rookie year was the best NFL season I’ve experienced, and it ended abruptly in the worst way possible without a playoff win.
While Kirk Cousins lit up the stat sheets while in town, he never felt like the long-term answer and struggled in clutch moments. Since his departure in 2017, the team has played at least three starting QBs in every season including this one.
As ESPN’s Field Yates notes, this season has had an unprecedented amount of movement at the position. The QB turnover is so severe, a 66th was added after Yates’ tweet when the Bears announced Nathan Peterman would start in place of Justin Fields in Chicago this weekend.
For now, the team will hope Howell will show enough that he can be viewed as a possible starter when camp rolls around next spring.