Ron Rivera‘s remarks at the annual league meeting on the state of the Commanders QB position suggest the battle might not only be between Jacoby Brissett and Sam Howell.
Washington holds the 16th overall pick in this year’s draft and would likely need to trade up to select one of the top four QBs: Anthony Richardson, Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis. No other QB has a first-round draft grade based on big boards by ESPN and The Athletic.
The highest the Commanders are likely to be able to trade up to is third overall. Carolina traded up from ninth to get the first overall pick from the Bears while Houston is almost certainly drafting either Stroud or Young, depending on who the Panthers choose.
That would leave Levis or Richardson as the pick in a scenario where the Commanders trade with the Cardinals.
Richardson, in particular, could be a fascinating fit in Washington. Rivera had his most success as a head coach with Cam Newton as QB in Carolina. The Panthers went 15-1 in 2015 and reached the Super Bowl with Newton leading the way with 45 total touchdowns. Like Newton, Richardson is a big, physical QB whose ability as a runner makes him a matchup nightmare.
Newton accomplished a lot more in college than Richardson, but the way Rivera was able to build an offense around Newton’s singular abilities could serve as a blueprint for the Commanders to follow with Richardson.
Jacoby Brissett signed this offseason to a one-year deal and unless he has a Geno Smith-type season (i.e. leading the Commanders to the playoffs), chances are he’s only a stopgap option. And Rivera has been muted in his comments regarding 2022 fifth-round pick Sam Howell.
He offered faint praise for Howell at the annual league meeting, saying he shares some of the same qualities as Brock Purdy, the 49ers seventh-round pick who led San Francisco to the NFC Championship Game after beginning the season as the third-string QB.
As great as Purdy was in relation to where he was drafted, few would argue he’s among the best QBs in the NFL. If that’s Howell’s ceiling, the Commanders might never leave the cellar.
In three seasons as Commanders head coach, Rivera’s failed to find stability at the QB position, starting eight quarterbacks during that span. He might need the draft to land a player who can steady the ship.
Because if Brissett or Hartman isn’t the answer — and Rivera doesn’t have a rookie to turn to — he might not be around for the next shakeup at quarterback.