Seahawks GM John Schneider 'Loves Way' Sam Howell Plays, Compares QB to Ex-NFL MVP - Sport News

Seahawks GM John Schneider ‘Loves Way’ Sam Howell Plays, Compares QB to Ex-NFL MVP

ORLANDO, Fl. – Long before becoming the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks and leading the franchise to their first Super Bowl victory, John Schneider began his NFL journey working as a scout for legendary executive Ron Wolf and the Green Bay Packers in 1993.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Commanders

At the time of his hiring, the Packers were coming off a surprising 9-7 season under first year head coach Mike Holmgren with a new starting quarterback under center in Brett Favre, who had been acquired from the Falcons prior to the 1992 season. Record-wise, the franchise didn’t take a step forward in Schneider’s first year on staff as their gunslinging signal caller uncorked a league-high 24 interceptions, but they made the postseason as a wild card and advanced to the Divisional Round before losing to the Cowboys, who would go on to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

In today’s NFL climate where quarterbacks are expected to become stars quickly upon arrival, Favre likely would have been kicked to the curb by most organizations due to his turnover woes. But Green Bay handles the most important position in professional sports with far more patience than most franchises and stuck with the Mississippi native, a decision that wound up paying major dividends with him leading the Packers to a Super Bowl and winning three MVPs.

Jumping back to the present speaking with reporters during his 15th NFL annual meeting at the helm for the Seahawks, Schneider sees many parallels between the start of Favre’s career and Sam Howell, who the team acquired in a trade with the Commanders earlier this month. Though he will begin his time in the Pacific Northwest as a backup to starter Geno Smith, as he did with Favre three decades ago, he envisions a path for the 23-year old quarterback to be a very good starter in the league down the road.

“Yeah, absolutely. He’s younger than some of these guys [in the NFL draft],” Schneider responded when asked if he viewed Howell as a starter. “So it was like, okay, this guy’s got 18 starts. And I get it. He’s turned the ball over. But they threw the ball a ton. With Coach Holmgren and Ron Wolf and those guys, I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but I was around Brett Favre at a really young age. The guy was throwing interceptions like crazy and he ends up winning three MVPs. I love the way he plays the game. Sam. And Brett.”

Thrust into the starting role for Washington last season, Howell endured a roller coaster 2023 campaign with plenty of ups and plenty of downs. On one hand, he nearly threw for 4,000 yards, tossed 21 touchdowns, and added five touchdowns on the ground, demonstrating his dual-threat capabilities. On the other hand, however, as noted by Schneider, he also led the league with 21 interceptions and lost four fumbles, leading to a benching late in the season.

Continuing to deal with an issue that cropped up at times in college at North Carolina, Howell also struggled to unload the football in a timely manner looking for the big play downfield, resulting in him taking a league-high 65 sacks last season.

But while Howell deserves some of the blame for forcing the football into tight windows frequently and holding onto to the ball too long, due to a variety of factors outside of his control, the first-time starter was a victim of circumstances playing for one of the worst teams in the NFL.

For one, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy inexplicably asked Howell to throw the ball a league-high 612 times, failing to establish a capable, consistent run game to complement him and take some of the burden off his shoulders. The Commanders ranked dead last in the NFL in rushing attempts and 27th in yards and despite finishing seventh in yards per attempt, little effort was made to lean more on the ground game to take pressure off the young quarterback, leaving him hanging out to dry while throwing at least 40 times in eight of his 17 starts.

Darrell Taylor, Leonard Williams, Sam Howell

Darrell Taylor, Leonard Williams, Sam Howell
Sam Howell absorbed extensive punishment in his first year as a starter, taking a league-worst 65 sacks.

Tom Hauck/GettyImages

Away from poor scheming and in-game adjustments, Howell’s receivers and tight ends didn’t help his cause, as the quarterback had 28 of his pass attempts dropped last season. This resulted in a 6.7 percent drop rate on his 612 attempts, and per Pro Football Focus, he finished the season ranked seventh and ninth in those two respective categories among qualified quarterbacks.

Compounding these issues, the Commanders had the NFL’s worst defense in points and yardage allowed, including allowing at least 34 points in seven regular season games. In defense of Bieniemy, he often found himself in a position as a play caller where he was trying to play catchup, which necessitated a more pass-heavy approach and putting the ball in Howell’s hands more than he probably would have liked.

From a big picture perspective, Howell’s overall body of work in his first year as a starter stacks up favorably against Favre’s first season as a starter for the Packers in 1992. While he threw eight more interceptions and had a slightly higher interception rate, he posted a near-identical completion percentage, threw four more touchdowns, and offered significantly more value as a runner.

Comparing Howell’s 2023 season to Favre’s first season under center in Holmgren’s system, the young quarterback looks even better. He threw for almost 600 more yards with two more touchdowns, three fewer interceptions, a three percent higher completion rate, and once again offered more value as a ball carrier.

Acknowledging that trading for Howell provides extra flexibility for the Seahawks heading into next month’s draft without a second-round pick, Schneider cited his toughness and arm talent as two areas that stand out about his game, once again conjuring up comparisons to Favre. Those may seem like lofty words of praise, but given his position with the Packers all those years ago, after seeing Howell carve his team up with 314 passing yards and three touchdowns last November, he’s clearly confident in the player’s skill set and potential.

“Sam to us was, he’s a football player,” Schneider remarked. “Tough, square. I think you guys will find him to be kind of quiet. But our game [against the Commanders], guys were like, ‘he’s super tough, super strong.’ He’s got a really cool upside.”

Far from a seasoned veteran, counting on Howell to have anywhere remotely close to the legendary career Favre put together in Green Bay would be putting the cart in front of the horse and then some. Asking him to quickly transform from a turnover machine into a three-time MVP wouldn’t be fair and such drastic improvements rarely happen at the quarterback position in the NFL, so it wouldn’t be reasonable at all to expect such an ascent.

As things stand, Howell isn’t expected to compete for the starting job in Seattle from the outset with a two-time Pro Bowler in Smith going into 2024 as the undisputed starter, so he doesn’t have the immediate opportunity to play that Favre was afforded after coming over from Atlanta all those years ago. And as Schneider explained on Tuesday, drafting a quarterback isn’t off the table either. Bringing Howell on board simply allows the organization to not have to force the issue picking one just for the sake of picking one.

With that said, if Howell impresses upon arrival and quickly picks up a new offense, the Seahawks may reconsider their stance, especially with a new coaching staff in town led by Mike Macdonald and Schneider holding him in high regard. At minimum, with him being under contract for the next two years at a bargain price, the door will be potentially open for him to start in 2025, depending on how Smith performs heading towards the final year of his own contract.

In a perfect scenario, lightning will strike twice for Schneider and Howell will eventually take the big step forward that Favre did, emerging as a top-tier quarterback and putting the Seahawks back in the hunt for NFC West and Super Bowl titles. If that doesn’t happen, given the minimal investment made to acquire him, the franchise can go back to the drawing board and try again.

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