Welcome to SB Nation Reacts, a survey of fans across the NFL. Throughout the year we ask questions of the most plugged-in Washington Commanders fans and fans across the country. Sign up here to participate in regular email surveys.
We begin our survey with the usual weekly question that asks if you are confident in the direction of the team. After a Week 15 game in which the Commanders rallied late behind Jacoby Brissett to score twice and end the game with less than a double-digit deficit for the first time since Week 10 (and following the seemingly inevitable release of long snapper Cameron Cheeseman), how are you feeling?
In mid-November, we asked what the front office should do if it went into the 2024 draft with a top-10 pick. The results of that question were, at the time, quite one-sided.
The stakes have gone up a bit in at least two ways since then.
Firstly, we are no longer dealing with a hypothetical top-ten pick, but what would be the 4th overall pick in the draft based on the Week 16 standings. Washington’s draft position could (practically, not mathematically) reach as high as 3rd overall, or it could fall as low as 9th overall. Washington’s top-ten draft position is no longer hypothetical; is it all but certain, and more likely to be a top-5 pick than otherwise.
Secondly, Sam Howell has not been the same quarterback since that mid-November poll. Over the intervening four games (Giants, @Cowboys, Dolphins, @Rams), Sam has struggled in a number of ways:
- Washington’s offense scored just 51 points with Sam on the field. Absent the final 9 minutes of the Rams game, that’s a per-game average of less than 13 points per game.
- During those 4 games, Sam threw 3 pick-sixes
- During those 4 games, Sam completed 82 of 138 attempts (59.4%) with 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions (half of which were returned for defensive touchdowns).
- Sam’s 4-game total was 785 passing yards (196 per game), with an average yards per attempt of 5.68. For comparison, in Sam’s first 10 games of the season, his average yards per attempt was 6.69 — a full yard higher.
- His adjusted net yards per pass attempt — a figure that integrates sacks and interceptions — was 2.35, 4.65, 2.38, 2.56 in the four most recent games, respectively. In the preceding 10 games, Sam’s ANY/A had been above 6.0 in seven games, and had been lower than 3.17 only one time — in the 4-interception, 37-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Week 3.
- Sam became fairly self-reliant in the red zone during these 4 most recent games. After rushing for only a single touchdown in the first 10 weeks (in Week 1), Sam ran for 4 touchdowns in three weeks against the Giants, Cowboys and Dolphins.
- Sam’s passer rating, which had been below 77 only twice in the first 10 weeks (41.5 vs BUF; 60.5 @NYG) has been 62.8, 74.1, 50.5, 50.5 over the past 4 weeks, respectively.
- Washington is 0-4 in these games. In fact, the team is on a 5-game losing streak, and has lost 7 of its last 8, and 10 of its last 12 games.
In short, Sam has looked like a guy who has been struggling to play quarterback in the NFL for the past month. He has been leading an anemic offense, and there have been other troubling indications, such as his seeming inability to get the ball to Terry McLaurin.
The sharp contrast between Sam Howell’s recent struggles and the apparent ease with which Jacoby Brissett moved the Washington offense, leading 2 touchdown drives in the final 9 minutes against the Rams, and Brissett’s seemingly easy connection with McLaurin (29 yd TD; 16 yd completion; 48 yd ‘almost’ TD on 3 targets, and a defensive pass interference call on the final pass thrown at Terry) simply raised the stakes on the decisions that face the incoming general manager and coaching staff.
Sam has played tough and he’s often played well. He has become popular with the Washington fan base, in part because of his 5th round draft status, and in part because the fan base has been thirsting for a solution at the quarterback position after far too many failed attempts. But we could probably say most of the same things about Taylor Heinicke a year ago.
It’s hard not to be aware that, for most incoming NFL front offices and coaching staffs, the preference is to pick a quarterback that the team can commit to and grow with. The connection between GM, head coach and QB is often the 3-legged stool by which NFL regimes are judged. The history of the NFL is replete with examples of GMs who were hired to work with head coaches who were already in place, or coaching staffs that were hired on the understanding that they would work with the quarterback currently under contract. Conventional wisdom is that these shotgun weddings have a low rate of success.
So, this week, we return to where we were a month ago (only with a stronger draft position in hand), and ask if you want to ‘ride or die’ with Sam Howell, or if you prefer to see the incoming commanders of the Commanders do what’s necessary to draft a top-tier rookie quarterback on Day 1 of the April draft.
The final question in today’s poll simply rounds out the 2024 QB discussion by asking (yes or no) if you would give strong consideration to signing a veteran free agent quarterback as the team’s 2024 QB1.
While not every quarterback on an expiring contract will actually test free agency in March, there are a number of veteran signal callers who are scheduled to enter free agency at the end of the 2023 season. Some of the more attractive options include:
- Kirk Cousins
- Baker Mayfield
- Ryan Tannehill
- Tyrod Taylor
- Jacoby Brissett
- Gardner Minshew
Comments & Results
Of course, we invite you to answer the survey questions below, but also feel free to expand on your answers and provide nuance in the comments section. I rely on those comments when discussing the results of the survey when they are posted in a separate article the next few days.