Taylor Heinicke has created several opportunities for himself since joining Washington in 2020. There were no expectations of Heinicke when he was first signed in Washington; he was a journeyman quarterback with previous stints in Minnesota, New England, Houston, and Carolina, respectively. Speaking bluntly, Heinicke was an emergency signing because Washington’s offensive coordinator Scott Turner knew him. However, Heinicke changed people’s perception of him when he saw action in 2020; against the Panthers, he came in after Washington benched QB Dwayne Haskins. He followed up a solid performance against Carolina with a start against the Buccaneers in a home playoff game. He surprisingly had Washington in position to tie the game, trailing 31-23 with possession and 2 minutes and 49 seconds on the clock.
Those two games in 2020 parlayed themselves into Heinicke signing a two-year contract. While Heinicke has always been viewed as a backup by the organization, this upcoming four-game stretch is his biggest opportunity yet.
The Commanders boast a 5-1-1 record with Heinicke as the starting quarterback this season, propelling Washington into the playoff hunt and the sixth seed in mid-December. Washington has not been in this position in some time, holding a playoff spot with games left to play instead of chasing a wild card spot or divisional title by having to win out with several games left. The season that Washington is having is rare under Dan Snyder’s ownership tenure. However, more importantly, Heinicke has never been in this position during his NFL career. He is the starting quarterback of a team holding a playoff slot with multiple games left on the schedule and is an unrestricted free agent this off-season.
Heinicke has not been the primary reason Washington has won six of their last eight games, and if you ask me, he has not been a top-three reason either. He knows the playbook and kills defenses with his ability to extend passing plays due to his outstanding instinctive playmaking ability. However, Heinicke’s performance has been inconsistent; he has consistently missed the layups in Turner’s offense, along with a few turnover-worthy plays each game.
These stretches of games may not necessarily change most teams’ perspective in thinking he can be a franchise quarterback for their organization. However, it can convince them he can be a serviceable bridge quarterback or a high-priority backup. It starts with the New York Giants, whom he plays in a primetime slot, where he can convince 32 teams of his value when the stakes are at their highest. Alternatively, if Heinicke fails to seize the moment against New York and has a poor performance, he might not even have an opportunity to play out all four games.
Check out the latest Hogs Haven Podcast; I speak with Nick Falato of SB Nation’s Big Blue View to break down the Commanders matchup against the New York Giants. I also dive into Heinicke more and other key storylines heading into the game.