Commanders to start rookie Sam Howell at QB vs. Cowboys

Jan 3, 2023, 8:48 PM | Updated: Jan 4, 2023, 1:33 pm
FILE - Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, left, talks with coach Ron Rivera during the N...

FILE - Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, left, talks with coach Ron Rivera during the NFL football team's rookie minicamp, May 6, 2022, in Ashburn, Va. Coach Rivera says rookie Sam Howell is expected start at quarterback for the Washington Commanders in their season finale against the Dallas Cowboys. It will be Howell's NFL debut. Rivera said the decision was made to give Howell a look in case the fifth-round pick out of the University of North Carolina gets a chance to be a full-time starter in the pros. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon, file)

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — It was never going to be Carson Wentz. It was almost Taylor Heinicke. Turns out it will be Sam Howell.

Ron Rivera considered going back to Heinicke for the Washington Commanders’ season finale against the Dallas Cowboys before conversations with players and members of his coaching staff persuaded him to start Howell at quarterback instead. With Washington eliminated from playoff contention, and in the aftermath of Wentz’s three-interception loss to Cleveland, Howell is set to make his NFL debut Sunday against an opponent playing to try to win the division.

“At the end of the day, at some point if Sam ever gets the opportunity to be a starter, this would be the chance,” Rivera said Wednesday. “Why not get it over with now and go from there? But the most important thing is that we’re really intrigued in terms of watching and seeing what Sam can do as a quarterback in this league.”

Washington selected Howell in the fifth round of the draft, 144th overall, last year. The former University of North Carolina star, who was once considered a potential top-10 pick, has been practicing nearly his entire rookie season behind Wentz and Heinicke and spent a few games in uniform as the Commanders’ backup.

Now he’ll get a taste of full-speed pro football action.

“I want to prove to my teammates that I can do this job, and I just want to prove to them that I’m capable of playing in the NFL,” Howell said. “Really more than anything, I just want to prove it to myself. I know how hard I’ve worked my whole entire life to get this opportunity. I just want to go out there and make the most of it.”

Rivera said he never considered starting Wentz, who likely will be released after one season with the Commanders and go to his fourth team in as many years. Heinicke was the original choice, and a report emerged Wednesday morning that he’d start and Howell would also see action against Dallas.

But Heinicke was not surprised when Rivera opted instead to start Howell, given how Washington’s season took a quick turn from being in contention to falling out of the playoff race. He also could be gone next season or return as a backup.

Still, Rivera and the front office need to see what they have in Howell, who could be in the mix as a franchise quarterback of the future.

“It really came down to finding out about the young man,” Rivera said.

While quarterbacking a team out of contention, Howell is set to face an opponent with plenty to play for. The Cowboys can win the NFC East with a win and a loss by the Philadelphia Eagles against the New York Giants.

“We want to win the game,” Dallas coach Mike McCarthy said. “You can’t go into the game and think you’re going to shift gears, I just think for the principle alone. We’re going to do everything we can to win this game.”

___

AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon in Arlington, Texas, contributed to this report.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9), wide receiver Tee Higgins (85) and Cincinnati...
Associated Press

Bengals powered by 3 young stars: Burrow, Chase, Higgins

CINCINNATI (AP) — Joe Burrow says the Cincinnati Bengals’ championship window should stay open for years. “The window is my whole career,” the franchise quarterback said matter-of-factly after the Bengals clinched their second straight AFC North title. His confidence is understandable given the offensive weapons available: Receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins have gained 1,000 […]
1 day ago
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans speaks at a news conference before an NFL fo...
Associated Press

NFC title game a Philly reunion for 49ers DC DeMeco Ryans

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — DeMeco Ryans’ influence on the NFC championship runs through both locker rooms. Ryans finished his playing career as a linebacker for Philadelphia, earning the nickname “Mufasa” (from “The Lion King”) for the leadership skills that he taught the handful of teammates still on the Eagles that have been carried forward […]
1 day ago
FILE - Alex Hall of the United States, checks the score following his run in the slopestyle finals,...
Associated Press

Winter X daredevils ride fine line between height, happiness

ASPEN, Colo. (AP) — Freestyle skier Alex Hall’s happy place this winter has been sliding down hand rails outside of offices and schools all over Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and other midwestern spots. The steeper and twistier, the better. Last winter, he found happiness at the Beijing Olympics on a run that nobody mistook for […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Georgia: SUV in crash was for recruiting, not personal use

Georgia athletic department officials say the vehicle involved in a crash that killed a football player and employee on Jan. 15 was to be used only for recruiting activities, not personal use. The University of Georgia athletic association provided that information in a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday, saying personal use of the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (15) during an NCAA college football game between Iowa St...
Associated Press

Hurts, Purdy set for college-era rematch in NFC title tilt

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jalen Hurts and Brock Purdy could be primed for a shootout in the NFC championship game. It’s the first time Hurts — the league MVP finalist for the Philadelphia Eagles — and Purdy, the ” Mr. Irrelevant ” rookie sensation for the San Francisco 49ers, have matched up in the NFL. And […]
1 day ago
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pays his respects to victims of a deadly helicopter crash d...
Associated Press

Russia issue looms for Paris Olympics, Zelenskyy rebukes IOC

GENEVA (AP) — The question of if and how Russia competes at the Olympics hangs over the 2024 Paris Summer Games. Just as it has now for five straight Olympics during Thomas Bach’s leadership of the IOC, whose support this week for some Russians to compete in Paris was publicly challenged Friday by Ukrainian President […]
1 day ago
Commanders to start rookie Sam Howell at QB vs. Cowboys