Ron Rivera has not yet decided on their starting quarterback for their matchup against the San Francisco 49ers. Regardless of their decision, Rivera believes that Sam Howell’s recent struggles have not affected his opinion of Howell as a long-term NFL starter. “He’s got a very good body of work,” Rivera said about Howell’s 16-game sample size to date. “The last few weeks have been tough on him. He’s taken a lot of snaps, the length of the season, obviously probably wearing on him as well as the number of plays he’s had and the number of hits he’s had to absorb.”
Since Washington’s 29-26 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Howell has since completed 54 percent of his passes, throwing for two touchdowns (four rushing), eight interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 52.8. If you let Rivera tell it, he believes Howell’s struggles stem from him trying to make “the perfect play.” “I think he’s reading a little bit more into some of the things that he sees out there. I think he’s just got to settle in and trust what he’s seeing initially and stick with the offense,” Rivera said.
It’s hard to imagine a worst-case scenario coming to fruition even if you acknowledge the possibility of it. At multiple points this year, in the off-season, and as recently as last week, it was important to allow Howell to experience the highs and lows and work through the lows to harden the shell that he’d need to have to bounce back from bad moments throughout the year. Understandably, though, if the theory all along was that Washington may have finally found their quarterback, the work does not stop because of a rough patch. However, this stretch of games, especially Howell’s last two against the Los Angeles Rams and New York Jets, has revealed a level of regression that affected his teammates tremendously. Washington has averaged 79 net yards a game in the first half of its last two weeks, and while we know several reasons are contributing to the lack of offensive production, the ineptitude is primarily a byproduct of Howell’s struggles.
There are two weeks remaining in the season, and the Howell experiment has produced some good moments this season, but if Howell has regressed to the point where he has shown what he is processing has become overwhelming, Rivera’s quarterback decision today should be easy. I would expect Jacoby Brissett to start the last two games, giving Bieniemy and his unit one last opportunity to showcase consistent efficiency on their way to the off-season.
Listen/watch the latest Trap or Dive, we discuss Rivera’s decision to bench Howell for the second straight week and what that means for Rivera’s tenure in Washington as it relates to the position. We also transitioned to what the most important priority in the draft should be with the Howell experiment of 2023 proving to be all but over.
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