Second benching intensifies doubts on Howell’s future as Commanders quarterback

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Sam Howell had a chance to clear some of the doubts as to whether he can be the Washington Commanders’ quarterback of the future.

A second straight benching has only intensified them.

Howell was replaced in the third quarter Sunday by Jacoby Brissett, who led the Commanders on three straight touchdown drives to help Washington erase a 20-point deficit and take a late lead before falling 30-28 to the New York Jets on Greg Zuerlein’s 54-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.

“It was tough,” Commanders coach Ron Rivera said. “We didn’t help (Howell) early. We dropped a couple of balls that we probably should have caught. Your confidence sometimes can get shaken. That’s what I started to feel in the second half and I was really concerned.

“That’s why I made the decision that I did.”

Howell certainly didn’t help himself a week after being benched in Washington’s 28-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

Rivera stuck with Howell, who came in leading the NFL in interceptions and added the 16th and 17th of the season against the Jets. Howell was replaced by Brissett after being picked off the second time, finishing 6 of 22 for 56 yards with a 1.7 rating.

“It’s obviously been a disappointing couple of weeks here,” Howell said. “I would like to play some better football. All I can do at the end of the day is control my mindset, my attitude and how I move forward.”

But whether the Commanders, who have lost six straight, proceed with Howell for their final two games – and beyond – remains to be determined. Rivera said he’d “evaluate everything” and decide early in the week on his quarterback for Washington’s game next Sunday against San Francisco.

“I’m still a young player,” said the 23-year-old Howell, who’s in his second NFL season. “I’ve got to do what I can to keep trying to get better and not let this moment define who I am as a player, who I am as a person.”

Brissett has been one of Howell‘s biggest supporters, offering encouragement to the young quarterback – especially since he has experienced the highs and lows of playing and being benched throughout his eight-year career.

“I told him this is going to be the hardest part of your career,” Brissett said. “It’s going to feel like you’re in this by yourself and it’s snowballing, one thing after another. I know from being in this league that the good ones find a way to get to the other side, no matter how long it takes, no matter how hard it is.

“I hope he leans on me as one of those good people who’ll help him get through this because I will.”

Brissett, who last started a game last season with Cleveland, was 10 of 13 for 100 yards and a touchdown in relief of Howell.

“Talking to Sam, some of these things you don’t know or you learn it as you go,” Brissett said. “You’ve got to go through it. For me, it’s just about going out there and playing football, what I know how to do best and put our team in the best position possible.”

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC.

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