Ron Rivera Makes Sam Howell Statement After Benching Commanders’ QB

Ron Rivera and Sam Howell

Getty Washington Commanders' head coach Ron Rivera made a statement about Sam Howell after benching the QB vs. the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15.

Ron Rivera sent Sam Howell to the bench during the Washington Commanders’ 28-20 defeat to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 15, but the head coach isn’t thinking about a change at quarterback.

Instead, Rivera confirmed Howell will remain the starter, despite an impressive cameo from backup Jacoby Brissett. Speaking to reporters after the game, Rivera simply answered, “He’s my starting quarterback,” per JP Finaly of NBC4 Sports.

Rivera admitted he only took Howell out of the game at SoFi Stadium “to take care of him a little bit.” The coach referenced how the Rams’ pass-rushers “had their ears pinned back.”

Howell was sacked by Rams’ linebacker Ernest Jones, amid near-ceaseless pressure that prevented him from making plays through the air. Yet, Brissett managed to fare a lot better, albeit from a smaller sample size.

Jacoby Brissett Outplayed Sam Howell

The final stat line made for grim reading for Howell. Numbers from Michael Phillips of The Fan Richmond showed how Brissett achieved more with less pass attempts.

Underlying statistics were just as damning. They revealed how Washington’s QB2 averaged 12.4 yards per attempt and posted a 157.9 rating, per ESPN. Howell’s 3.9 yards per attempt and 50.5 rating barely compared.

More significant than a direct comparison between the two passers was how Brissett got the Commanders’ best playmaker involved. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin quickly established a prolific connection with Brissett.

They combined for the Commanders’ second touchdown as part of a three-catch sequence that took McLaurin over 100 yards, according to 106.7 The Fan’s Grant Paulsen.

McLaurin hasn’t made as many big plays as in recent seasons. He entered the game with 60 catches for 694 yards, both team-leading marks, but No. 17 didn’t have a single catch of 40-plus yards before Brissett entered the fray.

The difference Brissett made was obvious. It means Rivera may not be able to avoid a quarterback controversy, even though the 4-10 Commanders have little to play for the next few weeks.

Ron Rivera Can’t Avoid QB Controversy

Rivera was wise to quickly make a statement of intent regarding Howell, but he’ll surely have more questions to answer about the quarterback situation before Week 16. It seems like a no-brainer on the surface, play Howell for the final three games so the Commanders can gain a full picture of exactly what they have in the second-year pro.

Yet, things aren’t quite so simple. Not when Brissett wasted no time expanding the passing game and padding McLaurin’s numbers.

Brissett’s the more experienced signal-caller, a 31-year-old more adept at avoiding pressure. The Commanders have a better chance to win with Brissett on the field, victories Rivera is sacrificing by keeping Howell in the lineup.

That’s a commendable risk since Rivera is unlikely to still be in charge next season. Big names like New England Patriots’ boss Bill Belichick and Michigan chief Jim Harbaugh are already being linked with Rivera’s job.

The next head coach may want to draft a would-be franchise quarterback, rendering Howell’s potential three-game audition moot. Howell has performed well this season, but he’s shown his inexperience in recent games, although playing behind a crumbling offensive line hasn’t helped.

Rivera pinned a lot of his hopes on Howell this season. It’s hardly been worth the risk, but the coach sounds determined to go out standing up for his choice.

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