As we start to close out the NFL season and get closer and closer to draft day, there will be an increase in speculation of who will go where, starting with what the Chicago Bears will do with their #1 pick and whether or not they will pick Caleb Williams to take over for Justin Fields. It is easy for the media to focus on this; I know I'm guilty of it, but perhaps one storyline that has been mildly overlooked is the possibility that the two most recent Tar Heel quarterbacks to go to the NFL will be competing for a starting position this offseason.
Sam Howell was picked in the fifth round by the Washington Commanders in the 2022 NFL Draft, and after sitting behind Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke for a year, he got his first taste of being an NFL starter. The Commanders finished last in the NFC East with a 4-13 record, which is the worst record Washington has had since 2019 (which doesn't seem that long ago, but it was 5 years ago).
Washington Commanders fans will tell you there is a lot about the organization that needs to be addressed for them to get back to being a relatively consistent playoff contender like they were under Joe Gibbs' reign. First and foremost, Dan Snyder is gone. That's the best thing to ever happen to the organization. Second, they parted ways with Ron Rivera, who I love as a person, but as a coach, good riddance. Third, the teams need someone to be their long-term answer at the quarterback position (5+ years), which the organization hasn't had since Mark Rypien ('89-'93).
The Commanders have the opportunity to trade up to the #1 pick and snag Caleb Williams, but for the sake of this article, let's say they keep the #2 pick and use it to pick up Drake Maye. Then, we have an awkward situation on our hands. Sam Howell, who has yet to play for a stable organization, competes with one of his best friends, Drake Maye, who is coming to a Commanders team that is seemingly making changes to become a stable organization.
If this does become the case, the Commanders should keep both of them and here's why. Sam Howell still has two years left in his contract, and I'm not sure there is a team out there that would trade a significant amount of assets to pick him up. Sam Howell will have a very successful NFL career; he is just in a horrible situation with ownership changes, rebuilding, a stacked QB draft class, and lackluster coaching.
The Commanders need to keep Howell as the starter for at least the 2024 season and let Maye sit behind him and get into the swing of things. Howell showed us glimpses that he could be a good quarterback in the NFL, and this was under Ron Rivera. Give him this season to make a name for himself, increase his value, and trade him somewhere where he can make a positive impact and get some assets you can use to build a team around Maye. It's a win-win-win for the Commanders, Howell, and Maye.
Of course, before you way too serious individuals begin telling me this is the dumbest idea ever, note that this is my princess magic fairy land scenario that, while unlikely, is possible. At the end of the day, the Commanders will have some stability at the quarterback position moving forward, which is something to celebrate. If it does end up being both Tar Heels, I'm hoping for a world where both quarterbacks benefit and have long careers in the NFL.