DEC 30: Despite the Commanders seemingly moving towards Brissett as their starter at quarterback for the remainder of the season following two consecutive games in which Howell was benched, it looks like injuries will keep Howell in place under center for this weekend, at least. According to Aaron Wilson of KPRC2, Brissett will be sidelined in Week 17 with an aggravated hamstring injury. With Brissett out this week, Howell will return to the starting role. Practice squad pass Jake Fromm will be signed to the active roster in order to back up Howell against the 49ers.
Joining Fromm on the 53-man roster from the practice squad will be long snapper Tucker Addington and offensive tackle Alex Akingbulu. They will also be joined by safety Sean Chandler and cornerback Nick Whiteside, who will serve as standard gameday practice squad elevations tomorrow. Fromm, Addington, and Akingbulu will be filling the roster spots left vacant by offensive tackle Charles Leno, safety Percy Butler, and center Tyler Larsen, who were all placed on injured reserve today.
DEC 27: After an aggressive quarterback pursuit in 2022, the Commanders stood down this year and centered their offseason around Sam Howell‘s development. Howell has started throughout the season; that is about to change.
Washington has benched the second-year QB in back-to-back games, and after Jacoby Brissett provided a spark in each, Ron Rivera said the veteran will receive his first start of the season in Week 17. Brissett, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, has already started for four teams throughout his career. This will be Brissett’s 49th career start.
This decision can be interpreted in multiple ways. On one hand, Rivera is almost definitely coaching his final games with the Commanders. He has long been viewed as on his way out after his fourth season. Front office changes are also expected, so this staff’s view of Howell may not matter much. But the team has also been linked to pursuing another starter-caliber QB in 2024 to at least push Howell. The Patriots’ upset of the Broncos in Week 16 moved the 4-11 Commanders into the No. 3 draft slot, and with the Cardinals not certain to select a QB at No. 2 — where they currently reside — Washington could be in position to make a major investment in Josh Harris‘ first offseason running the show.
Brissett, 31, has started for the Patriots, Colts, Dolphins and Browns throughout an interesting eight-year career. He has been one of this era’s premier backups, being thrust into duty twice on short notice and again later due to Deshaun Watson‘s suspension. The Colts turned to Brissett soon after acquiring him via trade in 2017, with Andrew Luck‘s troublesome shoulder injury requiring a full-season absence. A better Brissett version resurfaced in 2019, when Luck abruptly retired. The Colts then gave their regularly used backup a two-year, $30MM extension. Brissett could not command those terms in 2021 (with the Dolphins) or ’22 (Browns), but he made 16 starts in that span.
The Commanders gave Brissett a one-year, $8MM deal in March. While the team held a competition for the starting job, the Howell praise that persisted during the offseason pointed to the second-year passer winning that battle. Howell has shown flashes, but after struggling during a Commanders six-game skid, the North Carolina product has encountered some early turbulence. Despite two games remaining, Howell has joined only Watson (2018) as QBs to be sacked at least 60 times in a season over the past 17 years. The North Carolina alum has been dropped 60 times this season. Howell also leads the NFL with 17 INTs.
This Brissett move likely ensures Howell will not move close to David Carr‘s single-season record for sacks taken (72 in 2002), but it also points him toward an uncertain path after making all 15 starts for the Commanders this season. The team initially turned to Howell in Week 18 of last season, with the rookie leapfrogging Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke on the depth chart. A new HC-GM combo will be poised to assess Howell in 2024.