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LOVERRO: Rivera Must Make the Right Call at Quarterback for a Change

I’m back from my month-long Danny Decompression retreat in Spain. What did I miss?

— Sam Howell named starting quarterback for the Washington Commanders.

Not a surprise — after all, coach Ron Rivera had named him to the hallowed position of QB1 a few weeks after his only start, last year’s 26-6 season-finale win over the Dallas Cowboys to seal an 8-8-1 record — the Rivera special.

Still, he insisted that Howell was in a quarterback competition with free agent Jacoby Brissett, even though Howell had the advantage of taking most of the snaps in training camp with the starters — not Brissett.

Asked by reporters in June if he believed there was a competition between the two, Rivera replied, “I do.”

Maybe Rivera doesn’t quite understand how a quarterback competition works.

He claimed in June 2021 that he regretted not having Dwayne Haskins compete for the starting job the previous year. “The mistake I made was that my approach was wrong,” he told reporters. “I should have made as big a competition as possible, and that’s on me.”

The so-called competition between Howell and Brissett was hardly big. Then again, in order to have a quarterback competition, you have to be able to evaluate quarterbacks — and Rivera may not be capable of doing that.

His quarterback decisions here have been a disaster, the worst being trading for the $28 million disaster Carson Wentz. But he may have revealed that he may not be much more capable of evaluating the position than you or me in a Sports Illustrated interview last month, when Rivera described his reaction to Howell’s play in a meaningless season-ending game against the Cowboys. “If I would have known this, I would have played him sooner.”

He had Howell, who they drafted in the fifth round in 2022, from rookie minicamp until that final game of the year, under his watch, yet Howell’s play in the Dallas game — 11 of 19 completions for one touchdown pass, one rushing score and one interception — came as a surprise to the coach.

Consider this — Rivera may have never come to this conclusion if it wasn’t for Taylor Heinicke, who, after being benched for Wentz in Washington’s 24-10 disastrous loss to the Cleveland Browns, had no intention of taking the field for that Dallas game and instead reportedly talked Rivera into playing Howell.

It was quite the finish last year for the Commanders’ coach — he told reporters after the loss to Cleveland that he was not aware of the playoff implications of that game that left his team out of the postseason, then he had to be talked into starting the quarterback who would be handed the job several weeks later.

Fortunately for the new era of the Commanders, they have been handed a slam-dunk start — a home opener before a sold-out crowd likely full of Washington fans with the new owners, including Magic Johnson, on hand facing the 2023 patsy of the league, the Arizona Cardinals. Even Ron Rivera won’t likely foul that up.

— A great team, an ambitious plan and an ‘existential’ issue.

The New York Times got suckered into taking Orioles figurehead John Angelos seriously, something that no one who really knows him has ever done.

This notion that Angelos was going to oversee the development of the property around Camden Yards with $300 million from the state of Maryland as part of a new lease agreement was laughable. Angelos couldn’t develop a LEGO neighborhood.

Now the Baltimore Banner has reported that land development proposal is out of the negotiations for a new lease. The current Camden Yards deal is up at the end of the year. As is the Angelos style, dictated by his father, Peter Angelos, even incapacitated at this stage of his life at 94, deals are not made until the clock is about to run out.

The Orioles aren’t going anywhere. The team is to be put up for sale when Peter Angelos passes away, according to sources, and bidders have been lining up waiting for that sale to happen.

It was disappointing to see The New York Times let John Angelos off the hook he told them, “Let’s say we sat down and showed you the financials for the Orioles. You will quickly see that when people talk about giving this player $200 million, that player $150 million, we would be so financially underwater that you’d have to raise prices massively.”

This would have been a good time to remind Angelos that he promised to show those financials to the media in January and has failed to do so. Then again, The New York Times sports section isn’t what it used to be. In fact, it isn’t — period.

— The Professional Fighters League has sold a reported $100 million minority ownership stake to Saudi Arabia’s sports investment fund.

This is Saudi money, and now one of the new business partners with the Saudis is Wizards and Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, one of the many backers — including Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Hart and Tony Robbins — of the PFL mixed martial arts promotion.

“The PFL sport format is going to bring a major new audience to MMA, which is great for PFL media distribution partners and PFL brand sponsorship partners,” Leonsis said in a statement released in 2019 announcing the league’s playoff and championship format.

The day before the story broke about the Saudi investment in the PFL, there was a story reported by Human Rights Watch about a man in Saudi Arabia sentenced to death because of his Twitter and YouTube activity.


You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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