Ron Rivera spoke to the media briefly yesterday, but didn’t name a QB for Sunday’s season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Today he opened up his presser by naming Sam Howell the starting QB again. This will be Howell’s 17th start this season, the first Washington QB to do that since Kirk Cousins in 2017. Jacoby Brissett was named the starter last week, but a hamstring injury kept him sidelined as the emergency 3rd-string QB. He was limited in today’s practice, and could have the same role this week if he is healthy enough to be Howell’s backup.
LIVE: Coach Rivera speaks to the media after practice https://t.co/fLWqOQ0IuO— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) January 3, 2024
Sam Howell will get the call in Week 18. A week after benching him, Rivera says he did enough to take the job back. Howell becomes the first Commanders QB to start all season since Cousins walked. pic.twitter.com/v040CMnBCo— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) January 3, 2024
Sam Howell will start at quarterback Sunday vs. Dallas. Will be the first QB to start every game for Washington since Kirk Cousins in 2017.— John Keim (@john_keim) January 3, 2024
Is Howell starting because of his performance last Sunday or Jacoby Brissett’s injury?:
Well, I think it’s a little bit of both, but I thought what Sam did and went out and did the things that we were hoping he would be able to do. He did some really good things. I thought he managed a couple of the drives very well, very nicely. And again, want to see him get an opportunity to finish it out.
What stood out about Howell’s game on Sunday?:
Well, I thought early on, when he had the connections going with [WR] Terry [McLaurin], I mean, that’s the thing that you’ve been looking for, you’ve wanted to see. And we got a chance to see if we can do some more of that.
If he saw what he needed to from Howell as far has his mental standpoint after being benched:
Yeah, he handled it very well. I mean, he handled it no different than I thought he would. I mean, he’s a very solid young man who’s really a very mentally tough guy, and I thought he handled it nicely.
Do you still want to be a head coach in this league?— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) January 3, 2024
Ron Rivera: "I know this - we'll cross that bridge when we get to it on Sunday."
Ron Rivera: "There's nothing you can do about what's going to happen beyond Sunday. So the focus is just on Sunday."— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) January 3, 2024
Playing spoiler for the Dallas Cowboys this week:
Well, they’re very much aware of it. I mean, I really don’t have to because I think they understand that this is one of the top rivalries in the NFL and I don’t think it necessarily matters what your record is. This is really about the opportunity to play against a team like this.
What he thinks about fans hoping the team loses to secure better draft picks:
It’s interesting, it really is, that’s the only way I can look at it. To me, it’s not what’s important, as far as who we are as individuals and people. Because you should do things to win more so than anything else. And that’s pretty much what we’re trying to do is win a football game.
Ron Rivera says Jonathan Allen has a knee when asked about the injury that kept him out of today's practice.— COMMANDERS FOOTBALL (@HogsHaven) January 3, 2024
Focusing on the day-to-day aspects of coaching:
I can’t control anything beyond what we do here more so than anything else. That’s the truth of the matter. I mean, that’s what I’m here for is to coach. I’ve gotten an opportunity to coach. There was a long period of time that I did a lot of managing and in the last four and a half, five weeks, it’s really been about coaching. So it’s just keeping focused on that has been something that I’ve tried to do and just stay where I am, that old expression “be where your feet are.
What he’s seen from QB Jake Fromm over the course of the year:
Well, from the very beginning, Jake’s a very bright, very smart football player. He understands, gets what we’re doing on the offensive side. He’s a good decision maker, quick decision maker, gets the ball out of his hands very quickly. You see that in practice as well. So, I think he’s a guy that’s very well suited for the role he’s in for us.
Terry McLaurin approaching his fourth career 1,000-yard receiving season and what that says about his reliability:
Well, I think that’s the biggest thing is just shows his reliability. Just the fact that he’s always there. He’s always present and he is a guy that works at it. So, it is a good earmark for him if we can get that done.
If younger assistants come to him wondering about the future:
I think the biggest thing more than anything else is a lot of these guys have been through this. They understand what it’s all about. I think if you’re in this long enough you will have that situation and we’ll just keep working through it. There’s nothing you can do about what’s going to happen beyond Sunday. So, the focus should be on Sunday.
Specific things he wants to see from the players this week:
Well, the biggest thing you want to see is consistency and sustain it. Sustain the consistency. Do something good. Let’s continue to do good things. I think there are some younger guys that played a lot last week. I want to see them play again. I really do. And it was good to see some of those guys who got opportunities and they got them because of injury, but nonetheless, it was good to see them running around and doing some things. So that’s what you want to continue to see.
The atmosphere in the building:
I think the atmosphere’s good. I think the guys come to work. They enjoy being around each other. They’re preparing, getting ready for the game.
Finding a franchise QB:
Rivera on challenges of finding the QB after having Cam in Caro: "that's been the biggest crux, trying to find that guy. It's the hardest thing for anybody. You're fortunate if you get a head coaching job where there's a guy. You better relish that and you'd better succeed."— John Keim (@john_keim) January 3, 2024
In all honesty, that’s probably been the biggest crux of it all, is trying to find that guy. I mean, that’s the hardest thing for anybody. It doesn’t matter whether you’re here or that you’re at one of the other places that are looking for that guy. I mean you’re fortunate if you get a head coaching job where there’s a guy, you better relish that and you better succeed.
I’ll tell you that right now. I’ve said this before, if you know a guy like Alex Smith, if he never gets hurt, I never come here, because I think Jay and what they were doing would’ve continued. I mean, you get a guy like that, man, you run with it. I promise you that. It would’ve been cool to have a guy like that, it really would’ve, because I think there’s a lot of talent in that room. I think there’s some good playmakers.
In the last four weeks we’ve only given up three sacks. So, there’s some potential there. But to have a guy that’s been there, that’s been developed, that’s pretty cool. I promise you that if you go there, you’re a head coach and you got to have success. You should.
Alex Smith’s injury:
Fascinating answer from Rivera here. Finding the guy is so hard. HCs who have one ‘should’ succeed. pic.twitter.com/Lqr0tbvSPK— Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen) January 3, 2024
Talking about QBs, Ron Rivera said he imagines he never comes to Washington if Alex Smith doesn't get hurt because Jay Gruden had the team in a good spot.— Ben Standig (@BenStandig) January 3, 2024
Rivera said "if a guy like Alex Smith never gets hurt I never come here." Says Gruden would have stuck around longer because Smith would have led to more success.— John Keim (@john_keim) January 3, 2024
If the last four years have changed his perspective on the position and if it’s changed the way he coaches other players like the WR’s:
Well, I know this, just reflecting on it, the biggest thing is just how important that position is. I mean, I was fortunate in Carolina, we had our guy and for seven seasons, he was phenomenal. Unfortunately, the shoulder injury, I think is probably one of the biggest things that really just threw him off track. I mean, he was as good as anybody and he showed it.
And then trying to find that guy, that is the position. I mean, and you see why, such an emphasis is being made on protecting that guy. Why these guys are getting paid the way they’re getting paid. And if you’re fortunate enough to have that guy, I mean, I know last year everybody gave me a little bit of grief when they asked me about what’s the difference and I said, “quarterback.” I mean, trust me, it is, it is.
What changes for the players when there is a different QB in-season:
Oh, absolutely. They adjust exactly to those things, is the timing is, is the familiarity, is the comfort. That’s why being able to have a good offseason or two with these guys, developing that rapport is so important. A good example is in our own division, what Jalen Hurts did a couple years ago. I mean, he came on the scene and then came back even better because he had the kind of offseason that you needed to have. And now he’s an established guy. I mean, that’s just how big it is.
Sam Howell is the first QB in his time in Washington to start the entire season:
It is remarkable. I mean, he’s a very resilient young man. The hard part for it is he’s had to deal with a lot. He really has. And the scrutiny that falls upon being a starting NFL quarterback and he’s handled it. He’s handled it about as professionally as you can for a young guy. And in a market like this, where it’s been so hungry and so starved for the last several years to have that guy and hopefully he continues to grow and develop and bounces back. It’d be great to see him come out and play well again, consistent because his temperament, his mentality and his arm talent is pretty good. It really is. And believe me, I do think this guy can have some success in this league, I really do.
Starting every game this season:
Sam Howell on being named the starter and starting for the entire season pic.twitter.com/GfJw7jydXo— Zach Selby (@ZachSelbyWC) January 3, 2024
End of the season:
Sam Howell: The end of the year is always tough but we’ve got one more opportunity pic.twitter.com/HjI21COiia— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) January 3, 2024
Taking pride in starting every game this season:
Yeah, for sure. I mean, obviously, definitely the plan coming into the year, is start and play every game. But yeah, great opportunity on Sunday to try to end this year on a good note. Obviously, been a lot of ups and downs this season and hasn’t gone the way we want it to go, but a great opportunity against a really good opponent in our place on Sunday, so we’re excited for it.
This week will mark a year since his first start:
Yeah, it is crazy, man. I thought a little bit about that, just this time last year I was obviously getting ready to play my first game and now I have a full year kind of under my belt. Definitely just so blessed to be where I am and just to be a part of this team and a part of this organization, for sure.
Thinking he would have greater opportunities based on how he performed in last year’s Week 18 game:
Honestly, it really wasn’t. I wasn’t worried about the future. I wasn’t really worried about what could come from that game last year. I was just trying to go out there and play my best and try to help my team win and that’s really all I was really focused on. But obviously that game kind of helped me get this opportunity I got this year. I mean every single opportunity you get to go out there on the field, no matter what the circumstances are, no matter how your season’s been, it’s an opportunity to show what you can do and that’s how I look at it every week.
What he can take away from previously playing Dallas:
Yeah, I mean, you got to look at the things we did well, and I thought we ran the ball well in that game. We got to get the run game going on Sunday and you just got to try to stay balanced and keep the defense on their heels and take shots when you can. They do a good job on defense, have a really good front. So, we definitely have our hands full, but we’ll have a good plan and we just got to go out there and execute.
What he wants to see from himself this week:
I just want to play good football man and end this year on a good note. I don’t think I’ve played my best the past few weeks and I just want to make sure I go out there and show on Sunday the type of player I really can’t be in this league.
Learning from recent mistakes:
I just think I got to get in a rhythm. I thought I was in a rhythm in the first half on Sunday and then the second half, we kind of struggled to move the ball a little bit, but I just think I got to come out there early and get into a rhythm and sustain that throughout the whole game.
Emotions at the end of the season:
The end of the year is always tough and no one wanted to end the season, how we kind of ended it. But we got one more opportunity together. This is a great team, great, great locker room. There are so many great guys in here and I built some really good relationships with the guys in this locker room, so we want to end on the right note for sure.
Getting WR Terry McLaurin to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards this season:
When guys have certain goals like that and certain things they can accomplish, you want to help them do that. Terry’s, you know, he’s a tremendous player, but he’s an even better person. Such a great teammate, been so good to me throughout my career here. The game’s going to go how it’s going to go, but obviously we’d love for him to get that thousand.
What about McLaurin allows him to be successful in his five seasons:
He’s just a great player. I think he has such a unique skillset where he can do so many different things. He runs great routes, he’s a vertical threat, he’s great with the ball in his hands. I think when you’re good at all those things, it sets you up for success. He works so hard, he’s one of the hardest working guys we have on this team, and it shows out there on the field. He’s a great person, great teammate, I can’t say enough good things about Terry. We definitely want to try to get him there, for sure.
Change in culture:
Changes are coming for the Washington Commanders.— Scott Abraham (@Scott7news) January 3, 2024
What changes need to happen inside the locker room?
Honest response here from Jahan Dotson.
He told me, "a sense of culture. We got to have a mindset in here that we want change...the best teams in any sport are player led." pic.twitter.com/9V3qbaZ9UC