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Rivera: Howell goes into spring as Commanders' starting QB

PHOENIX (AP) — Sam Howell is going into offseason workouts as the Washington Commanders ' starting quarterback, coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday.

The second-year pro will still have competition along the way, but Rivera's declaration appears to take the organization out of the running for high-profile veterans such as Aaron Rodgers, Derek Carr or even Jimmy Garoppolo, who was an option last year before the trade for Carson Wentz.

That went poorly, so Howell takes the lead in the aftermath of the failed Wentz experiment.

“Sam Howell is going to start out as QB1,” Rivera said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. “The key to that, though, is he’s going to have to earn it to keep, that’s for darn sure.”

Washington drafted Howell in the fifth round last year out of North Carolina. Before a rough final college season, he was projected to be a top-10 pick — if not first overall.

Howell made his NFL debut in the regular-season finale after the Commanders were eliminated from playoff contention. He threw and ran for a touchdown in beating the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys.

“That game to me really epitomized what we potentially can be as a football team and what we should be,” Rivera said after being the recipient of the USAA Salute to Service Award.

Howell was the eighth quarterback to start a game in three seasons since Rivera took over in Washington with control over football operations.

If he earns the job to start the season, Howell would be the team's seventh different Week 1 starting QB in as many years, following Wentz (2022), Ryan Fitzpatrick (’21), Dwayne Haskins (’20), Case Keenum (’19), Alex Smith (’18) and Kirk Cousins (’17). Wentz, who threw three interceptions in the loss to Cleveland that contributed to the Commanders being eliminated, is expected to be released before the start of the new league year in March.

Rivera and the Commanders are still looking for an offensive coordinator after firing Scott Turner, who has since joined the Las Vegas Raiders.

They've so far interviewed six candidates: San Francisco 49ers assistant head coach/running backs coach Anthony Lynn, former Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, current Washington quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese, Atlanta Falcons QBs coach Charles London, Miami Dolphins associate head coach/RBs coach Eric Studesville and Los Angeles Rams assistant head coach/tight ends coach Thomas Brown. London has since been hired as the Tennessee Titans' QBs coach and pass game coordinator.

Washington would need to wait until after the Super Bowl to speak with Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

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Whyno reported from Washington.

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