Last night as I read the comments on social media after the Washington Commanders game, I really couldn’t believe it.
You know what I’m talking about. In fact, there are several of YOU PEOPLE who are reading this right now thinking “is he talking about me?”
Yes I am. And not quietly where you can’t hear me. I’m doing it here, with a 72-point headline on top, the typography equivalent of shouting it from the rooftops.
YOU PEOPLE are saying you still aren’t quite there yet in accepting Sam Howell is good, and is the quarterback of the future Washington’s NFL franchise has been looking for the last two decades. You’re like that average looking 30-something who life hardwired a lucky horseshoe into your back pocket, allowing you to end up dating a super model, then you complain that they’re not a very good cook.
What is wrong with you?
Sam Howell is the man. He’s always had the physical tools to be among the best in the game, but even I have been reluctant to go all-in on him until recently because of his consistency. I watched him for several years at North Carolina, would see great plays for a few minutes, then see him execute a play that provoked several “what was he thinking?” comments.
I get it. For a long time, you never knew what was coming next with Sam.
But his apprenticeship under offensive coordinator and probable next head coach Eric Bieniemy is wiping all that from the slate. Three plays yesterday in Seattle pointed to that transition.
The first came in the first quarter when Howell took off on what looked like a short run. Dangerously close to the line of scrimmage, he still kept his head up and when he saw Brian Robinson standing only a few yards ahead all by himself, flipped the ball to him. Robinson knew what to do from there and quickly ended up in the end zone.
There are certainly a lot of quarterbacks who can make that play, particularly in the first quarter. The Commanders have had an endless supply of signal-callers who look magnificent early in the game when the sun is shining and they’re not trailing. But the test of a QB’s mettle – particularly when he has all the physical tools to make a play at any given moment – is how well he does in the final minutes of a game while you’re trailing on the road.
We’ve all seen it hundreds of times. The Commanders get the ball back with 8 minutes to go and just need a time-consuming drive to come back and tie the game. Despite playing well earlier, however, that QB ends up facing a series of blitzes while the home crowd roars louder than a rock concert and somehow throws a ball down the middle that is intercepted.
Then we all slap our foreheads and wonder why it always happens to us.
Howell didn’t do that Sunday. With 8 minutes to go he found Antonio Gibson from 19 yards out to tie the game at 19-19. Just to show it was no fluke, after Washington’s defense gave up the go-ahead score, he put another drive together and threw an almost perfect pass to Dyami Brown from 35 yards out to tie the game again with only 52 seconds remaining.
Go back in your memory banks and try to recall a Washington QB rallying the team for a tying TD twice in the final 8 minutes. Aside from Kirk Cousins in that “you like that?” game with Tampa Bay (which was in 2015), it’s been a long time. Howell was unflappable, calmly saw the field, and while others around him got more tense, he became more relaxed.
I get that you can still nitpick that he holds the ball too long, and he had a fumble yesterday when he fought for more yardage on a run when he should have gotten to the ground quicker. But he’s not the problem. He happens to share the same last name as Thurston Howell III, but is working for a number of people who coach like Gilligan.
So I don’t know what YOU PEOPLE want. He has now grown into the game in a way where not only can he throw and run, but the game is slowing down for him mentally so that he sees the field, knows where to go with the ball when under fire, and is capable of taking a team down the field in the final minutes to tie or win a game.
Go back and look at the 27 quarterbacks the team had through the Dan Snyder era and compare them to Howell. Certainly he’s no Rex Grossman. Or Carson Wentz. Or Jason Campbell. Which is a good thing.
He’s as good or better than all 27. And he’s just getting started.
YOU PEOPLE are just going to have to accept that. 🙂