Early Wednesday morning, it looked like the Washington Commanders would turn back to Taylor Heinicke to start at quarterback in Sunday’s season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.
That thought lasted until Washington head coach Ron Rivera met with the media after Wednesday’s practice. As expected, the first question he fielded was about which quarterback would play against the Cowboys, and Rivera said he was going with Howell.
“Our plan is we are going to start Sam [Howell],” Rivera said. “I spoke with the coaches, talked to some of the team leaders, and talked with some others about it, and we feel that this is an opportunity for us to give Sam a chance to show us what he’s capable of.”
Why did he go with Howell?
“Well, I think at first initially is obviously, it would be his first start, and it would become a little bit of a circus having to deal with all the things that come with being a starter,” Rivera said.
“But also, you look at the opponent and who you’re playing and what they’re playing for. Going with Taylor [Heinicke] would’ve given us an opportunity to see what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and would’ve given Sam a chance to take a look at it if we had gone with Taylor. But at the end of the day, at some point, 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 admitted that Heinicke was the initial plan, but he talked with several people, including Heinicke, and he decided to give Howell the chance.
“Well, I will say this, like I said earlier with Ben’s question, was I had thought about going with Taylor and actually talked to him about that,” Rivera said. “And then, after having an opportunity to rethink and talk with some other folks about it. Talked to some of the team leaders and other players and coaches, for that matter. It really came down to finding out about the young man.”
The head coach then praised Howell for his development throughout the season, citing the time that Howell served as Heinicke’s primary backup when Wentz was out with an injury. Rivera didn’t make any promises about Howell but clearly wants to see what he can do in the final game against a stout defense that is playing to win a division title.
Playing Howell was always the right move.