All offseason, the Washington Commanders have maintained that 2022 fifth-round pick Sam Howell was their preferred starting quarterback for the upcoming 2023 season. They held that stance even as Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Derek Carr and other proven signal-callers changed teams, and all through the draft process.
On Tuesday, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera appeared to leave a sliver of an opening for Jacoby Brissett to take the job away from Howell at some point.
"Just because we said Sam will start off as QB1 doesn't mean he'll finish as QB1," Rivera said, via ESPN. "He's very, very capable of that ... [But] we talk about Jacoby almost as much as we talk about Sam."
Howell played -- and started -- in one game last season, going 11 of 19 for 169 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the regular-season finale against the Cowboys. Brissett, meanwhile, completed 64% of his passes at an average of 7.1 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns and six picks in 11 games filling in for the suspended Deshaun Watson in Cleveland last year, and those numbers were pretty much in line with the way he has performed throughout his career as a starter and backup.
Brissett is certainly the more proven player of the two, but we also kind of know what he is at this point -- a player who sits comfortably on the fringe of starter and backup-caliber, who won't necessarily hurt your offense but also probably won't lift it by himself. Howell has more upside because we have yet to see what he's capable of, but he also has more downside. And with the Commanders now under new ownership, there may be real pressure on Rivera to prove he's the coach for this team in the future, and that may mean making a real run at the playoffs. It remains to be seen which quarterback he'd choose if that is, in fact, the edict.