Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera addressed the media after practice on Aug. 18. Here is a full transcript of the press conference.
On naming QB Sam Howell the starting quarterback:
"Funny you ask. I talked with [Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator] Eric Bieniemy and [Quarterbacks Coach] Tavita [Pritchard] to be yesterday and after our first preseason game, after both those joint practices, I'm gonna name Sam our starter this year going forward. He's basically met the challenge that we talked about and that was seeing the growth and improvement from OTAs and minicamp, and then talked about going into training camp and continue to grow and show us what he's capable of. We've been very pleased with it and to the point where I decided yesterday that we were gonna name him the starter going into the regular season."
On if there was a point that solidified it for him:
"I think after the first practice against Baltimore. That was the high watermark for me in terms of having to see him show us that he is capable of doing the things that we need him to do. You know, it was a very good day. There was a lot of positive things that came out of it and blocking the tape back at the office I had at the hotel, a little room I had, I kept thinking to myself, you know, that's what I wanted to see, that's what I wanted to see. And so I wanted to make sure that when we got back yesterday, we had an opportunity because the players were off. I wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to talk about what we're seeing and make sure it was the things that we needed to see and we all agreed. So, I just feel confident enough going and comfortable enough to say that Sam's our guy and we really think that he's done those things. There is still more growth to go and he's gonna continue to get better, we believe that and I'm very confident going forward."
On why he decided to wait to announce it:
"Because the players were off yesterday."
On what he wanted to see from Howell before he announced it:
"Because I really thought that would, that was all the things that he needed to do in terms of showing us growth. I did purposely talk about the Baltimore practices, the scrimmages because you're gonna go up against somebody new. You're not necessarily gonna have a game plan for them. You're gonna have to work off of just what you've learned and exhibit some of that growth and that's what I believe I saw. I felt comfortable enough yesterday to sit down with Tavita and Eric and listen to what they had to say and it really kind of helped me make my decision. We just feel that now is a good opportunity going forward, so the players will know and the community will know, the fan base will know, as we start getting prepared for the regular season."
*On if he met with the quarterbacks before he announced the starter: *"Yes, I met with them. They were off yesterday, so I grabbed him first thing this morning. You know, I wanted to let [QB] Jacoby [Brissett] know that this wasn't what he didn't do. This was about what Sam did. You know, Jacoby's been a true pro. He's done everything that we've asked and he's also helped mentor Sam. He's been a good teammate to Sam and now I know why so many great things have been said about who Jacoby said is and I think he's a more than viable quarterback. But again, there were certain things that we felt Sam had to show us going in and I think everybody knew that from my perspective it was Sam's salute and he did nothing to lose. He did the things that he needed to do and he showed the growth that I was looking for."
*On if there was any point in the process where he doubted that Howell wouldn't win the job: *"I didn't have doubt but if I would have, yeah, I could've changed my mind, but I didn't have any doubt but I wanted to get through Baltimore. To me, I thought that was where it would've come to a head, that you go out there and just lay an egg. But no, he came out that first practice and he was on. He made a couple mistakes, things that most certainly are correct him and things he'll learn as as he grows. But for the long haul, for the future of us going forward, I really do believe that Sam's the guy we're gonna go with."
On one of the things out of practice he wanted to take the next step in:
"Well, I think it's just the whole part of the playbook, just really getting a great grasp of it. Our quarterbacks are still learning. There's a lot to learn, there's a lot of little nuances and I think as Sam continues to go through the training camp, he's going to do some good things. He's going to do some things that he goes, Hey, we got to correct that. But that's going to be all part of the growth going forward. I go all the way back to the Cowboys game. He threw the interception and he self-corrected right away and he knew what his mistake was. Everything considered, he played really well in that game. So then we go out and go to OTAs and mini camps, and I was really thrilled with the growth we saw. And then come in, start training camp, and you just start seeing them having day after day, you know, the good and lows, highs. And then there were a couple of practices that we had which were exceptional. Not just his, but the team, the way that everybody seemed to get it. And you feel really good that that's a good sign. Then playing the preseason game, the way he played, I thought there was a lot of positives. And to me, I was real anxious to get to Baltimore. And now having had the chance to go back and look at the tapes, I could say there's been the significant kind of growth that we were looking for, that I feel we need to have. And so I'm very confident and comfortable in saying that he's our starter."
On why he chose to have a traditional QB competition:
"Because it is one of those things that in their careers, he and [QB] Jacoby [Brissett] are in two different points in their career. So to me, a guy that's ascending, that's growing into it, you've gotta look at it that way as much as a guy that's there. And so, because going forward, if this is the guy, there's a lot of good things you can do. And I look at some of the models and some of the other teams in the league that have done this with young quarterbacks and look at where they are today. Its pretty indicative if you get your guy and he's a young guy, you can do some really good things in terms of roster building."
On if Howell will play Monday:
"He's going to play Monday. Yeah, he'll play Monday."
On how he measures Howell's growth and how it impacted his decision to name him the starter:
"I think he's in a really good spot. I think he's right now a more than serviceable quarterback. He's a guy that's growing. He's a guy that can win, I believe. Again, and I go back to last year's Dallas game, they were playing, they played all their starters. They were playing for playoff positioning. We had a young guy that had to go out and show us what he could do and he played that way. He had a whole week of preparation. So I felt when you take your game plan and you play specific plays and you work specific things and he showed the ability to take that from the classroom, from the practice field, and put it on the game field, that really resonated with me. And then going into OTAs and mini camps and seeing how he did those things, I saw growth. And then when we started camp this year, I believe I saw growth, so I'm excited for it. I'm excited for our football team."
On the quick passing game so far:
"I've seen good decision making and accuracy, [QB Sam Howell] gets the ball out quickly, he's got quick twitch to make a decision. Again, like I said, there are some things, there's been some growing pains, you know, there was a couple examples from the Cleveland game that we've worked on and corrected and we saw it happen in Baltimore's practice, almost the same exact situation. And in the Baltimore practice, he answered the question, you know, he didn't answer the question in the preseason game, but it was something that was worked on, something that he had practiced, and then sure enough, it happened in one of the practice drills with Baltimore, and he made the right decision and said, okay, there's growth. He gets that. Those are the kind of things that we were looking for is that doesn't repeat the same mistake that he learns from his mistakes, that he can self-correct at times, if he has to."
On when meeting with the coaches if there was much discussion on the QB position:
"Oh, no, it was very good discussion and we talked about everybody, everything, but everything we talked about was positive. Sure, there was growth and stuff like that was part of the conversation, but I think everybody's on board going forward knowing what this could mean for the franchise having a young quarterback grow and develop for the future and what it means for the roster build as well."
On if Howell surprised him at all throughout this process:
"No, I mean, this is what I was anticipating. I think this is what we're all hoping for, is that he continues to grow and shows growth and the potential for what he can be as a football player for us."
On a decision about starting left guard:
"That's a work in progress, it's a work in progress. You know, we're going to continue to evaluate that, having [T/G] Saahdiq [Charles] back out on the football field now, I think is going to continue that for us. But no matter who it is, the third guy is going to have an opportunity to play as well. So, you know, we just got to look at that and continue to work and see how it goes."
On how much the starters will play during Monday night's preseason game:
"No, that was the discussion we're going to have tonight as coaching staff. We'l talk about it to begin with, and then we'll solidify that tomorrow night."
On injury updates for TE Logan Thomas:
"We'll see, we're going to increase a little bit more of his work off to the side before we start engaging him in some of the group activities, but he'll continue to do what he's been doing. He did say he's feeling better and better, and that's been a huge plus."
On injury updates for DT Phidarian Mathis:
"Same thing with Phidarian. It's going to be a gradual thing and we'll see how that goes for him as well. [DE] Chase [Young] is in the same situation. Told you guys again, this is all about getting past a certain point with the doctors and then we'll go from there. But he's going to be out here, he's allowed to do everything except for contact right now."
On injury updates for S Danny Johnson:
"Well, you know what, they were checking him this morning and I haven't gotten an update on him."
On being impressed by Howell's evaluation thus far:
"I think if there's one thing about Sam is Sam is very levelheaded. He keeps himself pretty much like that. I like his decision making as far as where to throw the ball, where to place the ball once he's thrown it. I think he's shown that he's got a handle and a feel for the playbook. As I said, one thing that kind of we talked about is that when we start narrowing the playbook down for specific teams and studying and preparing for specific teams, I think that'll also show some of the growth."
On the way S Danny Johnson got injured at the joint practices in Baltimore:
"No, I'm upset with the way it happened. It's just unfortunate too, you know? And to what extent, we don't know yet and we won't know anything until, well, they might know something now. I just haven't had a chance to talk to [Head Athletic Trainer] Al [Bellamy], but you know, it's unfortunate that did happen at all."