Sam Howell Wins Commanders Starting QB Job, Must Now Save Someone Else’s Job

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Sam Howell is the Washington Commanders’ starting quarterback. It’s his job and that, like it or not, means he has to save Ron Rivera’s job.

Simple as that.

Rivera on Friday morning announced Howell has won the starting job. The news is not surprising because the Commanders never really staged a legitimate competition for that starting job. Howell got practically all the first-team work during the offseason and training camp ahead of Jacoby Brissett.

But after a good preseason outing against the Cleveland Browns last week (9 of 12 for 77 yards and 1 TD) Howell needed to basically hold serve in dual team practices against the Baltimore Ravens this week.

That was the final test in Rivera’s mind.

“He’s met the challenge,” Rivera said Friday morning.

Ron Rivera must win with QB Sam Howell to keep his job with the Commanders
Head coach Ron Rivera of the Washington Commanders looks on during training camp at OrthoVirginia Training Center on July 28, 2022 in Ashburn, Virginia. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Ron Rivera’s Job Now Tied To Sam Howell

So there you have it: Howell takes over a spot that once belonged to Sammy Baugh, Sonny Jurgenson, Billy Kilmer, Joe Theismann and Super Bowl winners Mark Rypien and Doug Williams.

Howell begins his rein as Washington’s starter Monday night when the Commanders host the Ravens in Washington’s second preseason game. And he starts with a reservoir of confidence.

“I’m always confident in my abilities and I’m always confident in my abilities to just come out here and perform and do well for this football team,” Howell said Friday afternoon. “I think throughout camp, every single day I’ve gotten better and more comfortable.

“And I’m in a really good place right now with the offense and I feel really good out there every single day, and I feel good about my chances to go out there and execute.”

Commanders coach Ron Rivera named Sam Howell his starting QB
CLEVELAND, OH – AUGUST 11: Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14), left, gets off a pass during a pre-season game between the Washington Commanders and the Cleveland Browns at the FirstEnergy Stadium on August 11, 2023 in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Rivera Needs Howell To Perform

Howell, the Commanders, and even Rivera see this as one man trying to perform to a high standard to keep win games. Just like any other starter on an NFL team.

But the truth is, this second-year player, unproven and perhaps even somewhat doubted by some people outside the organization, also carries the big task of saving his head coach’s job.

Those are the stakes in Washington.

Rivera, you see, is about to begin his fourth season as Washington’s head coach. And he has yet to deliver a winning season.

So what makes this season so critical?

Commanders ownership is new. And Rivera has anointed Howell to lift the organization after past well chronicled missteps and miscalculations with Carson Wentz and Ryan Fitzpatrick — not to mention an inability to develop Dwayne Haskins.

Sam Howell has impressed Ron Rivera and the Commanders
Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14), left, gets off a 4th down pass for a 1st completion against Cleveland Browns defensive end Lonnie Phelps (63) on a 2nd quarter touchdown drive during a pre-season game between the Washington Commanders and the Cleveland Browns at the FirstEnergy Stadium on August 11, 2023 in Cleveland, OH. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Rivera Has Little Room For Error

So now, Rivera is picking his guy to deliver a winning season. That’s something Howell appreciates.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity that coach has given me,” Howell said. “Shoutout to coach Rivera for believing in me and always trusting in me since I got here. So shoutout to him.”

But what if Rivera’s guy doesn’t deliver? What if Rivera’s guy isn’t what the coach is vouching for him to be?

It probably wouldn’t end well. So there is little room for error.

The Commanders, you see, were recently purchased by a group led by Josh Harris, a private equity investor, philanthropist and owner of other sports teams.

Harris, 58, also owns the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils. That means Harris has a history as a sports franchise owner. He has a record.

Sam Howell is Washington Commanders new starting QB.

Josh Harris Record With Coaches

That record has so far included keeping his head coaches after taking over the franchises he buys. But then moving on.

Harris bought the Devils in 2013. And after one season, he fired coach Peter DeBoer the day after Christmas in 2014. DeBoer had take the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2012.

Harris bought the Sixers in 2011. And by December of 2021, Doug Collins was already planning his exit. That, according to Collins himself.

Collins resigned four months later. Collins left with a .478 winning percentage and multiple playoff appearances as the 76ers coach. Rivera currently owns a .470 winning percentage with Washington and has gotten the team to the playoffs once, that in 2020.

So coaching change is a thing with Washington’s new owner.

That will change with the Commanders only if Sam Howell plays very well.

Follow on X: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

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