On Saturday night, Washington Football Team quarterback Taylor Heinicke made his first career playoff start when he matched up with arguably the greatest QB of all time.
Heinicke would fall short of the improbable comeback victory, but he became an instant fan favorite with his style of play.
It was a style of play we haven’t seen for a very long time in Washington. PFF had Heinicke’s performance against the Bucs rated as the highest-graded QB play in Washington over the past 14 years.
Sure, Washington is a team that is building a championship-caliber defense. But the defense needs help. They need an offense to sustain drives, and it takes points to win in this league.
While the offense was lagging most of the season, the unit still showcased Pro Bowl-caliber talent with Terry McLaurin and Brandon Scherff, and had exciting playmakers in Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, and Logan Thomas.
At many points this year, it was difficult to watch the offense. In a QB-driven league, the Washington Football Team quite frankly had inept QB play. Whether it was the wasted talents of the strong-armed Haskins, or the struggles of Alex Smith returning from a devastating leg injury, the QB play in 2020 just wasn’t good enough.
So it’s natural for fans to be excited when we witness what we saw from Taylor Heinicke. But is Taylor Heinicke the future QB of the Washington Football Team?
Fans will naturally ride the emotion of recent performances. Pundits will say he’s a one-hit wonder who wasn’t game-planned against, who couldn’t manage to win a starting job in the XFL and a player who wasn’t even on an NFL practice squad a month ago.
Here’s my opinion:
Taylor Heinicke gave the Washington Football Team and its fans the blueprint for what we want to see from the QB position.
Is he the answer? Who knows really? Fans certainly don’t. Even personnel guys and coaches whiff on players. And as unlikely as it seems that he becomes the next feel-good story of a grocery store clerk turned Hall of Fame QB like Kurt Warner, it is possible that he can be a productive NFL QB.
Sometimes guys like Heinicke don’t show well in practice. His size is underwhelming, his arm appears average, and it’s hard to showcase intangibles like toughness and presence when you’re playing with shorts on. But what he did show us over five quarters this season is what we’ve been missing from all three of the QB’s that played this year.
We saw a guy with moxie; the stage wasn’t too big for him. We could see the confidence he played with and the admiration he earned from his teammates. It was a similar confidence players had with Alex Smith, but Smith lacked the mobility and health to be productive and reliable.
We saw a QB in control of the offense. Sure, he’s played in similar systems with Turner in years past, but when he was signed to the team several weeks ago as an emergency QB, he practiced and prepared as if he was the starter. In interviews after the game, he spoke about 12 and 14-hour days. He wanted to be prepared in case he was called upon. It’s something we desperately wanted to see from the more talented Haskins.
We saw mobility and pocket presence. Something we witnessed in a small sample size from Kyle Allen. But unlike Allen, Taylor kept his eyes downfield. That’s a trait of most of the greats, including Mahomes. Heinicke’s ability to go through reads, escape the rush, show poise in the pocket, be dynamic with his feet and most of all, the incredible heart he played with. That, my friends, is what we’ve been missing in Washington for so very long.
I’m not saying Taylor Heinicke is the future QB of the Washington Football Team, but he gave us a glimpse of how the position should be played. He proved that a competent QB can make this stagnant offense become less predictable and more explosive. He gave us hope that a QB who can come in with his style of play can turn this offense into something we can be excited for.
As the defense adds the few remaining pieces to what should become an elite Super Bowl-caliber unit, it’s imperative the offense isn’t a liability. The offense, even with a lack of talent in relation to other teams in the league, still proved capable to operate efficiently with a competent QB like we saw last Saturday night.
It’s the style of play that we witnessed Saturday night that we should be excited for. Not necessarily the player.
I do believe Taylor Heinicke played well enough for the opportunity to earn a roster spot with the Washington Football Team next year. Is he the long-term answer? That’s for Ron Rivera and company to decipher. But he did show us this offense isn’t as far behind as many of us thought. They just need a competent QB. Thanks for the blueprint, Taylor.