What does Ron Rivera’s firing mean for Sam Howell?

At one point during the 2023-2024 NFL season, former UNC quarterback Sam Howell looked like the Washington Commanders’ clear-cut answer at franchise quarterback.

In mid-November, Sam Howell led the NFL in passing yards. He was ahead of a former MVP contender, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Howell had a young, talented receiving corps that included former college teammate Dyami Brown.

Things were looking up in the nation’s capital, with Washington hoping to making postseason play for the first time since 2020.

After beating the New England Patriots in Foxborough on Sunday, Nov. 5, the Commanders endured an ultimate collapse.

They ended the season on an 8-game losing streak, not winning a single game in December or January. Howell hit a low point, too, being benched for Jacoby Brissett in Week 16 at the New York Jets.

All of this led to Washington head coach Ron Rivera being fired on Monday morning.

While the immediate question is “who will be the next head coach,” there’s another one that comes to mind for UNC fans: what does this mean for Sam Howell?

In the preseason, Rivera named Howell his starting quarterback. There was a possibility he backed up Brissett to begin the year, learning from one of the NFL’s most well-liked veteran quarterbacks, but Howell shot to the top of Washington’s depth chart after a strong preseason.

Howell’s sophomore NFL campaign was a microcosm of his Commanders team – hot start, cold finish. He threw an interception in each of his last seven games, including multiple picks in four of those contests.

Whoever is Washington’s next head coach has to do a deep evaluation of Howell. Despite Howell’s late-season struggles, that coach also has to look at the fact he was one of the NFL’s best before the collapse.

Sure, the Commanders could go and draft a quarterback or sign a free-agent.

There’s no need to do that with a veteran leader in Brissett and a young buck in Howell, who hopefully can turn back the clock to his Tar Heel days.

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Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire