The Commanders are reportedly telling prospective offensive coordinators that Sam Howell "is expected to be QB1" when offseason work begins in a couple of months. That morsel of info was first reported by CBS NFL Insider Jonathan Jones this past weekend and later confirmed by numerous members of the local media.
While Washington's apparent belief in Howell can be interpreted as a positive development, it shouldn't be treated all that seriously in the end.
Now, there's absolutely no harm in Ron Rivera chatting with his potential coordinator hires about Howell. Perhaps one or a few of them possesses an intriguing idea for how to build around Howell, for example, or sees something in the unproven-yet-talented thrower that Rivera presently doesn't.
Unforeseen benefits could arise by hyping up Howell as the Commanders' guy, and this organization is in no position to dismiss anybody as a possible cornerstone. So, brainstorm away with Howell in mind. His debut versus the Cowboys was encouraging and maybe it marked the beginning of a special career.
But think about it: Rivera isn't going to waste his time with interviewees discussing the viability of an offense built around Carson Wentz (because Wentz isn't long-term answer material and certainly a goner) or Taylor Heinicke (because Heinicke isn't long-term answer material and possibly a goner).
Therefore, Howell becomes the signal-caller at the center of the conversation by default since he's the only one who'll definitely be on the roster in 2023. Quite simply, there's no one else to even talk about.
If Derek Carr becomes a free agent, Lamar Jackson emerges as an available option or a prized prospect slips to the Commanders at pick No. 16 in the NFL Draft, will Rivera shrug his shoulders and stick with Howell just because of this recent report about the former fifth-rounder? Of course not.
Washington will need to identify at least one more passer to fill out the depth chart at the spot and should Heinicke depart in free agency, that number jumps to two. And in all likelihood, that (or those) player(s) will represent worthy competition for Howell — at a minimum. After all, he's chucked a mere 19 balls at the professional level.
Of course, a path does exist for Howell to actually find himself in the first-string huddle.
Attracting an established veteran who's able to choose his next employer may be difficult for Rivera (and, you know, said veteran has to truly materialize), investing in another trade isn't exactly appealing after how the Wentz swap unfolded and spending a top selection on a rookie doesn't make major sense for a coach entering his fourth year in charge.
In a scenario where the Commanders ultimately end up with a middling vet or another cheaper draftee, then sure, they might as well let Howell fight for the gig, hopefully watch him capture it and go on to begin his journey to show he's a promising pro.
Rivera and the front office, however, aren't going to halt their search for an alternative after holding a handful of Howell-themed dialogues in mid-January. Rather, that search is in its early stages, and if Rivera was allowed to speak candidly, it's not a stretch to imagine him divulging that he'd prefer multiple names over Howell's.
Rivera has to tout Howell as his primary choice now and there's a solid chance he'll have to do so in the spring, summer and fall, too. Yet it's important to note that the former isn't really what will influence the latter.