Videos by OutKick
The Washington Commanders — despite what many NFL Draft evaluators projected — opted to stray away from drafting a quarterback last weekend and all signs point to former UNC signal caller Sam Howell getting the first chance as the starter in 2023.
With the Kentucky Derby coming up this weekend, Tirico was a guest of the “Sports Junkies” on 106.7 The Fan in D.C. on Tuesday and talked about the Derby. Of course, talk turned to the area’s local NFL team — the Washington Commanders and their likely starting quarterback in particular.
“I think Sam is a guy they really targeted in the middle of last year as the guy,” Tirico said via Lou DiPietro of Audacy.
We got the second Giants game flexed last year, and as we were there, we kept hearing from multiple people about him, so I was not surprised to see him play, and play well, against Dallas. I’m not saying he’s Patrick Mahomes, but that was the Mahomes model: sit him until the last week, play him once, and go from thereMike Tirico on Sam Howell
Here are a few reminders from Howell’s only NFL start.
This isn’t just some dude hypothesizing from his basement. Tirico — who covers a wide array of sports but is best known for his coverage of Sunday Night Football on NBC — is plugged into league circles. He’s not the kind of sports personality to just throw out a crazy statement without credence to back it up. He’s one of the most respected names in the business.
While it was a limited NFL sample size, the 5th-round QB finally got his number called in the season finale against Dallas — a team that boasted one of the top defenses in the league and still had plenty to pay for in terms of playoff seedings.
Sure, the game plan was conservative at times, but Howell finished Washington’s season finale 11-of-19, completing 60 percent of his passes with one touchdown. He also showed off his versatility with 5 carries for 35 yards and another score, leading Washington to a 26-6 drubbing over their division rival.
Tirico believes the offensive weapons are in place and the NFC is primed for a new quarterback to emerge from the pack.
Is Howell the key for Washington to take the next step?
For the first time in a long time, the Commanders have talent at all the offensive skill positions.
“The receiving corps and running back group is there, and I like what they did in the Draft,” Tirico said, “so overall, I like the approach – but can Sam play at that level? There are not a ton of great QBs in the NFC right now, so why not be in a position right now to see if you have one who could do a really good job – and if you have a guy who can do a really good job, on a rookie contract, you can do well in the NFC.”
With the trio of Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson and Curtis Samuel as the main trio catching passes from Howell, complemented by Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson in the backfield? It’s easy to see why Tirico has high hopes for Howell in 2023.
Even former Washington QB Taylor Heinicke raved about the new No.1 QB in Washington, despite getting benched for the rookie last season.
Washington’s defense finished 7th in the NFL a season ago and added key pieces through the draft, so it appears the Commanders could literally be a quarterback away from being a true contender in the NFC.
There’s no question the Commanders need more from their offense, and they are counting on Howell and new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for a few more wins in 2023. For Rivera and company, this certainly feels like a playoff or bust campaign.