The Commanders head coach told reporters on Tuesday that, while he's given Howell the edge in the low-intensity portion of the year, he's not quite committing to the North Carolina product.
"I do," Rivera said when asked if he saw his quarterback situation as a competition between Howell and veteran Jacoby Brissett for the starting job. "Again, it's one of those things that, guys, it's … just because I said (Howell's) gonna start off as QB1 doesn't mean he's gonna finish as QB1. I like to believe, though, that if he goes out and does things he's capable of, he's got a very, very good chance of doing that.
"I think Jacoby's shown us some things that have really caught people's attention. We talk about Jacoby almost as much as we talk about Sam. I just think as we go through this process and until we play games, it'd be unfair to start making assessments. Again, there is a lot of confidence."
Howell played in just one game in 2022, the Commanders' season-ending victory over the Dallas Cowboys. The rookie completed 11 of 19 passes for 169 yards, one touchdown and one interception, providing enough proof of potential to earn him the edge entering the offseason.
Brissett, meanwhile, compiled a stronger argument for a starting job, manning the role for the Browns in the absence of Deshaun Watson. Brissett started 11 games, posting a 4-7 record as Cleveland's top option under center and helping the Browns field a competitive offense by completing 64 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards, a 12-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio and an 89.1 passer rating as a starter. While Cleveland struggled to mount much momentum, Brissett was lauded for his efforts, which exceeded expectation and earned him another opportunity in Washington.
If Washington is truly looking to contend in 2023, Brissett might be the better option, especially if Rivera's seat starts to warm. But the Commanders are also looking for a long-term answer under center, and after the Carson Wentz experiment failed, Howell seems like the next best young option.
Thankfully, it's early June. The Commanders don't have to fill out a lineup to play a game this week and are still two months from their first preseason contest. Washington has time to let the two battle for the starting job, and the hope is competition will produce improvement.
"It's really cool because you watch the cooperation between the quarterbacks. … Jacoby, one thing everybody's said about him is this dude's a great teammate," Rivera said. "You watch him and you watch how he handles his communication with Sam after plays and after certain things happen, and you can tell this is a legit team guy. He's trying to help Sam as much as possible.
"Then you watch Sam, and Sam is encouraging and giving praise to Jacoby as well as the other guys. That is what you want. You want a good room where you know there's a lot of cooperation and everybody's pulling for one another and there's not a split dynamic between them. That's really been probably the best thing I've seen."
Cooperation and healthy competition is good. Washington needs all the improvement it can get under center, and this is the route it's chosen for 2023. We'll see how it all shakes out this summer.