Jan 8, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) passes the ball against the Dallas Cowboys at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Rivera: Sam Howell is Commanders QB1 entering offseason

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday that Sam Howell — who has thrown 19 passes in the NFL — will enter the offseason as the team’s first-string quarterback.

Further, Rivera said the Commanders are not interested in signing — or trading for — one of the veteran quarterbacks expected to be available this offseason.

Rivera made the comments during three separate interviews Wednesday after being named the recipient of the 2022 Salute to Service Award.

“The biggest thing we decided is he will start out as QB1,” Rivera told PFT Live. “He will most certainly get the first opportunity. We go into OTAs and minicamp, he’ll be QB1. He’ll fight for that position. We’ll give him every opportunity to earn it, and we’ll see what happens when we get into training camp and through it.”

As for pursuing Derek Carr via trade or signing free agent Jimmy Garoppolo?

“No,” Rivera said. “I think the biggest thing is we have to find a guy to come in that’s going to compete, but in terms of finding a guy you’re going to have to spend a lot of capital on, no.”

A fifth-round draft pick in 2022, Howell started the final game of his rookie season and completed 11 of 19 passes for 169 yards with one touchdown and one interception in a 26-6 win against the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys.

“It’s his opportunity,” Rivera told reporters in a separate interview, where he said Howell is “more than likely” going to be QB1.

“This is a challenge to him. If he comes out and does the things that he’s capable of — we believe he’s capable of — he can most certainly be our guy. But we’ll find out,” Rivera added. “Again, that’s what competition’s going to do. It’s going to bring the best out in all our guys.”

The Commanders, who alternated quarterbacks Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke for the first 16 games, let go of offensive coordinator Scott Turner after finishing the season at 8-8-1.

The Commanders are still interviewing candidates to replace Turner.

Howell, 22, was inactive for nine games and did not play in the other seven games in which he was active in 2022.

The Commanders are expected to release Wentz before the league year begins in March. They acquired him from the Indianapolis Colts in an offseason trade and he finished 2-5 as the starter with 11 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

Heinicke took over when Wentz got hurt and compiled a 5-3-1 record, completing 62.2 percent of his passes for a team-high 1,859 yards with 12 TDs and six picks.

If Howell is tabbed the Week 1 starter, he would make the Commanders’ seventh different starter in seven years.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) on the field before the game against the Green Bay Packers at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: QB Carson Wentz to sit, Commanders want look at rook Sam Howell

Rookie fifth-round pick Sam Howell appears set for an audition as the Washington Commanders continue to shuffle the deck at quarterback.

Multiple reports Wednesday indicate Carson Wentz, who started last week after Taylor Heinicke played in nine games while Wentz recovered from a broken bone in his hand, will be inactive for Week 18 when the Commanders welcome the Dallas Cowboys.

Heinicke and Howell are expected to share QB duties, per reports.

Howell last played in the preseason finale, taking every snap against the Baltimore Ravens, and has drawn high praise from head coach Ron Rivera.

“Well, he has a bright future in this league,” Rivera said in August. “He has a lot of growing to do. I know [offensive coordinator Scott Turner and quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese] will go through this with a fine-tooth comb and emphasize the things that he could’ve done better.”

Washington quarterbacks have combined for 23 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and have been sacked 45 times in 2022.

Wentz threw three interceptions and completed 16 of 28 passes for 143 yards in a loss to the Browns last week. Rivera picked Wentz for the start after weighing whether to stick with Heinicke, who had only one turnover and a combined passer rating of 105 in his previous three games.

The Commanders traded for Wentz after Heinicke led the team in passing in 2021 with 3,419 yards, 20 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Given the run of stopgap solutions, another spin on the QB carousel appears imminent for the Commanders, unless Howell proves a draft steal and nails down the job.

Alex Smith led Washington in passing yards and attempts in 2020. It was Case Keenum in 2019, Smith in 2018 and Kirk Cousins (2017, 2016).

–Field Level Media

Dec 24, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) and quarterback Carson Wentz (11) run onto the field before the game against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Commanders mulling Week 17 QB1 decision

Washington Commanders coaches are reportedly meeting Monday to decide between Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke as the starting quarterback for Week 17.

The Commanders (7-7-1) completed a winless 0-2-1 December with a 37-20 defeat at San Francisco on Saturday, when Wentz relieved an ineffective Heinicke in the fourth quarter.

Head coach Ron Rivera and his staff will decide on a QB1 for Sunday’s game against the visiting Cleveland Browns (6-9) by Wednesday morning at the latest, per the report from Pro Football Talk.

Washington holds the final NFC playoff spot and controls its destiny with home games remaining against the Browns and the NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys on Jan. 8.

Heinicke completed 13 of 18 passes for 166 yards with two touchdowns, one interception and one fumble against the 49ers. Wentz was 12-of-16 passing for 123 yards with one touchdown.

Heinicke, 29, is 5-3-1 as the starter this season, completing 62.2 percent of his passes for 1,859 yards with 12 TDs and six picks.

Wentz, who turns 30 on Friday, is 2-4 as the starter, completing 62.9 percent of his throws for 1,612 yards with 11 scores and six interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) walks along the sideline Sunday, Oct. 30, 2022, during a game against the Indianapolis Colts at Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Commanders activate backup QB Carson Wentz from IR

The Washington Commanders activated Carson Wentz from injured reserve Monday to serve as Taylor Heinicke’s primary backup.

Wentz landed on IR on Oct. 22 and was designated to return to practice Nov. 23. He hasn’t played since sustaining a fractured ring finger on his right (throwing) hand in a Week 6 win at Chicago. The injury required surgery.

Heinicke has guided the Commanders to a 5-1-1 record since taking over and head coach Ron Rivera has said the plan is for Wentz to serve as QB2.

Washington (7-5-1) returns from a bye week to host NFC East rival New York Giants (7-5-1) this Sunday.

Wentz, 29, completed 62.1 percent of his passes for 1,489 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six starts (2-4 record) this season.

Washington acquired Wentz in a March 9 trade with the Indianapolis Colts. The No. 2 overall pick in 2016, he has a 46-44-1 record as a starter with 150 TD passes for the Philadelphia Eagles (2016-20), Colts and Commanders.

Heinicke, 29, has completed 61.8 percent of his throws for 1,444 yards with nine touchdowns and five picks so far this season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) prepares to snap the ball during the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders name Taylor Heinicke starting QB for Week 11

Washington head coach Ron Rivera named Taylor Heinicke the Commanders’ starting quarterback for this week’s game against the Houston Texans.

Carson Wentz (finger) resumed throwing Wednesday but has not been cleared for a return to practice. He’s eligible to come off injured reserve after missing four weeks.

Wentz started the season as the QB1 in Washington until a fractured right ring finger sent him to IR following a Week 6 win over the Chicago Bears.

Heinicke is 3-1 since Wentz went to the sideline with a 2-4 record. Heinicke capped the active run Monday night with a 32-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, who were previously unbeaten and among Super Bowl favorites.

The 29-year-old Heinicke has five touchdowns and four interceptions in 2022, piloting a run-first offense to wins over the Eagles, Colts and Packers in addition to a three-point loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Once Wentz is cleared for a return to practice, the Commanders have 21 days to add him to the active roster. Whether Wentz reclaims the starting QB role at that point is anyone’s guess.

“You have to look at the momentum,” Rivera said Wednesday. “You have to look at what the mood of the team is, obviously. You look at what is best for the team, and at the end of the day, that’s how it has to be.”

Acquired by the Commanders from the Indianapolis Colts, Wentz had 10 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He was sacked nine times in a 24-8 loss to the Eagles on Sept. 25.

–Field Level Media

Aug 20, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) talks with quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) on the sidelines against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders not ready to make QB call

Commanders coach Ron Rivera plans to report back on the status of the starting quarterback job in Washington when a decision has been made.

Rivera said Tuesday he hasn’t gathered all of the medical information on Carson Wentz, who started the season as the QB1 in Washington until a fractured right ring finger sent him to injured reserve following a Week 6 win over the Chicago Bears.

Heinicke is 3-1 since Wentz went to the sideline with a 2-4 record and the Commanders looking like a team ready to dig into prospect evaluation for the 2023 NFL Draft. He capped the active run Monday night with a 32-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, who were previously unbeaten and among Super Bowl favorites.

Heinicke said Monday night he was prepared to do whatever Rivera needed him to do — start or help the Commanders move forward with Wentz.

“My role this year was to be backup to Carson and, if he went down, be ready to play, and I feel like I’ve done that,” Heinicke said. “I’m just going out there and trying to win games for this team. And if they want to put Carson back in, great. I’ll be the best backup I can be to him and help him in any way I can. But for me right now, I just go in there and try to do the best I can.”

The 29-year-old Heinicke has five touchdowns and four interceptions in 2023, piloting a run-first offense to wins over the Eagles, Colts and Packers in addition to a three-point loss to the other NFC favorite, Minnesota.

“The first thing I’m going to tell everybody is not to get ahead of ourselves — first we’ve got to return him from practice and make sure he’s cleared and ready to go,” Rivera said Tuesday.

Rivera said he would talk to the medical team, front office, coaching staff and quarterbacks before anyone outside of the facility was informed of the Commanders’ direction.

“You guys will be the last ones to get notified,” he said.

Wentz can return to practice Wednesday, but the Commanders then have 21 days to activate him.

Acquired by the Commanders from the Indianapolis Colts, Wentz had 10 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. He was sacked nine times in a 24-8 loss to the Eagles on Sept. 25.

–Field Level Media

Aug 20, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke (4) throws a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs during the second half at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor Heinicke announced as Commanders starting QB

Washington coach Ron Rivera on Tuesday anointed Taylor Heinicke the starting quarterback for the Commanders’ Week 7 game against the Green Bay Packers.

Rookie Sam Howell will be the backup.

Heinicke replaces Carson Wentz, who underwent surgery Monday on his fractured finger. Wentz is expected to be sidelined 4 to 6 weeks.

“Taylor right now gives us the best chance,” Rivera said Tuesday.

Rivera was asked if any consideration was given to tabbing Howell as the starter.

“We didn’t want to put Sam in this situation this early in his career,” Rivera said. “I think Sam is still learning what we do and how we do it … we think he’s on track.”

Wentz fractured the ring finger of his throwing hand in last week’s win over the Chicago Bears. He underwent successful surgery Monday in Los Angeles, the Commanders said in a statement. Hand specialist Dr. Steven Shin performed the surgery. Rivera said a decision on whether to place Wentz on injured reserve would come later this week.

The Commanders selected Howell in the fifth round of this year’s draft.

Wentz sustained the injury late in the first half of Thursday’s win when his hand hit Bears defensive lineman Justin Jones on his follow-through. He remained in the game and played the entirety of the contest.

Wentz finished 12-of-22 passing for 99 yards. He has 1,489 yards passing on the season with 10 touchdowns against six interceptions.

Heinicke went 7-8 as Washington’s starter in 2021. He completed 65 percent of his passes for 3,419 yards and 20 TDs against 15 INTs.

The Commanders (2-4) host the Green Bay Packers (3-3) this Sunday.

–Field Level Media

Oct 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks to pass against the Chicago Bears during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Commanders QB Carson Wentz has fractured finger

Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz’s availability is in question after he sustained a fractured finger on his throwing hand in Thursday’s victory over the Chicago Bears, NFL Network reported Saturday.

Per the report, Wentz is headed to Los Angeles to see a hand specialist to assess the situation.

Wentz completed 12 of 22 passes for 99 yards without a touchdown or interception in Washington’s 12-7 win over Chicago on Thursday night.

Taylor Heinicke serves as the backup and rookie Sam Howell is the third-string quarterback for the Commanders (2-4), who return to action against the visiting Green Bay Packers on Oct. 23.

Wentz, 29, has thrown for 1,489 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions in six games this season.

He has completed 62.6 percent of his passes with 150 touchdowns and 63 picks in 91 career games with the Eagles (2016-20), Indianapolis Colts (2021) and Commanders since being selected by Philadelphia with the second overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera greets quarterback Carson Wentz (11) before the game between the Washington Commanders and the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Commanders’ Ron Rivera apologizes to Carson Wentz for QB comment

Too late for an audible, Commanders coach Ron Rivera called a mea culpa instead.

In front of the entire team, Rivera said he needed to apologize for suggesting Washington quarterback Carson Wentz was the reason the franchise isn’t in the lead pack of the NFC East this season.

“I didn’t have to. I was fortunate enough that our media relations director contacted him and let him know,” Rivera said in a radio interview Tuesday morning. “And I actually talked to Carson this morning. In fact I talked to the whole team. I had a mea culpa moment and that I should know better. I created a little bit of a distraction and that’s one thing that I try not to do and it’s one thing that I’m very aware of. Again, it’s one of those things that when you misstep, people can’t wait to dive onto it and jump onto it and hold onto it without an opportunity to explain yourself.

“So, hey, that’s on me. I should know better.”

On Monday, Rivera was asked why other NFC East teams are ahead in the division, and he responded: “Quarterback.”

Even the Dallas Cowboys (4-1), winners of four straight with backup Cooper Rush in for Dak Prescott, are in the upper tier along with the New York Giants (4-1) and Philadelphia Eagles (5-0).

But Rivera said Tuesday he meant the familiarity of those quarterbacks with the system the team employs was the reason for their early success.

“No, I got no regrets about that quarterback,” he said Monday of making the Wentz trade with the Indianapolis Colts in March. “I think our quarterback has done some good things. There’s been a couple games that he struggled, but you look at his numbers from yesterday and you would say, ‘OK, look, his numbers he’s had throughout the year, there times he was very solid.’ And then we had the unfortunate Philadelphia game, and he struggled a little bit in the Dallas game. But the way he performed yesterday, and it just shows you what he’s capable of and we chose him because we believe in him. We chose him because we looked at what we felt were things that pointed towards him.”

Wentz has been sacked 20 times this season. He had 359 yards passing and two TDs in the loss to the Titans last week. Rivera repeated the suggestion that time will only improve Washington’s product because of cohesion between players and the quarterback in a familiar system.

“We have a quarterback, he’s been here for his first season, and as he continues to work and develop with our guys and assimilate to what we do, I think we will be progressively better,” Rivera said. “I thought he played very well this past week. He had some really good moments. He had a couple that I know he wished he had back, but the guy played, for the most part, a pretty doggone good football game.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2022; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera greets quarterback Carson Wentz (11) before the game between the Washington Commanders and the Philadelphia Eagles at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Rivera: ‘Quarterback’ why Commanders are last in NFC East

When Ron Rivera was asked Monday why the other teams in the NFC East are further along in rebuilding their teams than the Washington Commanders, Rivera had a one-word answer: “Quarterback.”

The Washington coach soon clarified that he had no regrets over the team’s blockbuster trade to acquire Carson Wentz amid the team’s 1-4 start.

“No, I got no regrets about the quarterback,” Rivera said. “I think our quarterback has done some good things. There’s been a couple games that he struggled, but you look at his numbers from yesterday and you would say, OK, look, at his numbers he’s had throughout the year, there was a time he was very solid. And then we had the unfortunate Philadelphia game, and he struggled a bit in the Dallas game.

“But the way he performed (Sunday against Tennessee), it just shows you what he’s capable of and we chose him because we believe in him. We chose him because we looked at what we felt were things that pointed towards him.”

The Commanders are looking up at the Philadelphia Eagles (5-0), the New York Giants (4-1) and the Dallas Cowboys (4-1) in the division. Philadelphia jettisoned Wentz two years ago to make Jalen Hurts the centerpiece of its offense; now the Eagles are the only unbeaten team in football.

The Giants are getting more out of Daniel Jones in his fourth NFL season after declining to pick up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. And the Cowboys, who lost Dak Prescott to a broken thumb in their Week 1 loss to Tampa Bay, have won four straight games behind backup Cooper Rush.

The Commanders, on the other hand, opened the season by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars and have lost four in a row since.

Wentz has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 1,390 yards, 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s also taken 20 sacks in five games and lost one fumble. On Sunday, he threw an interception at the Tennessee 2-yard line at the end of the game to let the Titans escape with a 21-17 win.

Rivera said the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and teams can only build success “around a specific quarterback.”

Alex Smith, who was with Washington in 2018-20 and overlapped with Rivera in 2020, called out his former coach while appearing as an analyst on ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown.”

“I’m not going to lie, I had a really hard time watching that. When I heard it, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not here to defend Carson Wentz, he’s had a tumultuous career and ups and downs. But this is a defensive head coach that is absolutely driving the bus over his quarterback.”

Smith noted that Wentz ranked fourth in the NFL in passing yards, while the Commanders ranked 28th in rushing offense and tied for 26th in scoring defense.

“The blame has got to be spread around,” Smith said.

–Field Level Media