For two years, I have been labeled a Taylor Heinicke hater. First, let me dispel this once and for all. I NEVER hated Heinicke. As someone who analyzes the game, I tend to often see things through different lenses. As someone who has been a fan of this football team since 1983 (almost 40 years now), I also tend to be extra critical of our “situation” - having seen the good, bad and ugly. My take on Taylor was/is he was a likeable guy who could provide a spark for spurts at a time, but he was never going to be “the guy”. His limitations as a pure passer, which I felt have held this team back for nearly two seasons, were never going to improve - no matter how much coaching he received. If you view this as me “hating” the player, then I have no further response for you.
Which brings me to my second point...
As most fans desire, I too have longed for a franchise quarterback here in Washington. I latched onto (and even named a pet after) RG3. After a magical rookie season, reality hit hard. An injury impacted his playing style; essentially what made him special, and we saw a player who was a shell of his former self. I quicky became a Kirk Cousins fan after his indoctrination into the starting lineup, but that too came to a premature halt after Bruce Allen and company couldn’t reach a long-term deal to keep him in D.C. Then came the Haskins draft - yes, I too fell victim to his story and local ties, and allowed myself that tiny glimmer of hope.
After watching Alex Smith dink and dunk his way down the field after returning from his gruesome leg injury, and witnessing more QB carousels than a fan could stomach - including one quarter of what I thought was a horrible move to Ryan Fitzpatrick, I thought we could give ourselves a fighters chance with a big-armed 29 year old signal caller who went through some tough seasons the past few years, but had the arm talent to not “limit” the vertical threat this offense wanted to become.
I again fell victim to the dysfunction that is the Washington Football franchise...
Now, if I’m being completely honest (and as you all probably already know), I have longed for a drafted franchise quarterback we could develop and keep here for the next decade plus. Although I was not completely enamored with the 2022 class of passers, I saw glimpses of greatness with guys like Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett, Matt Corral and even our own Sam Howell (who I still have excitement for).
Once our “Commander” chose to yet again go the veteran route with Carson Wentz, I envisioned the 2017 and 2019 quarterback who helped lead Philly to a Super Bowl and a division title. What we ended up getting was the player Colt’s fans warned us about - one who, like the above mentioned RG3, was a shell of his former self. And just like in the past, I let my deep desire for just “a guy” get the best of me.
Still, in the first two games, fans could see glimpses of what this offense could look like with a strong-armed passer who could stretch the field vertically with his arm and the collection of weapons at his disposal. Unfortunately, the offensive line that the Head Commander built was a sieve, and it didn’t take long to see that Wentz was a sitting-duck behind this mash unit. I was quick to blame the offensive line, and rightfully so - but it’s not fair to put the woes of the season on just that unit. The guy under center has to also be held accountable, and Carson Wentz didn’t do his job very well.
I have also been very critical of Ron Rivera for his personnel decisions, and I often let that mask the deficiencies of our starting quarterback. But when push comes to shove - our “starter” didn’t produce... and that is really the bottom line. I had relegated myself weeks ago to the fact that Wentz would not return in 2023, and had written some articles and posted some tweets about how the cap savings could be used. Still, despite all this, I was severely disappointed over the play of Taylor Heinicke in December and wanted a change. I championed for Sam Howell, but that was not to come. So yes, this fan did indeed want to see Carson Wentz inserted into the starting lineup to see if he could capture some magic and get this team back on track.
...I had fallen victim yet again.
Is this yet another black-eye on Rivera? I think it 100 percent is, but Ron doesn’t sit back in the pocket and throw the ball to the opposing team. He just happened to fall into the same trap that many coaches around the NFL fall into each year - and that is thinking they can fix someone else's mistake.
Carson Wentz was a massive mistake, but if we want to look for a silver lining, it’s a mistake we can walk away from this offseason with ZERO impact to our salary cap. The Broncos and Raiders can’t say the same.
If you really want to argue over which quarterback is better - have at it. Reality is, neither one is the answer, and this was not a playoff caliber team regardless of who was under center - although I do understand us yet again falling victim to thinking maybe we indeed were.
My only hope for the future is the snake gets cut off at the head - meaning Dan Snyder sells this team, and new ownership cleans house. We need a competent general manager. One who can evaluate talent through the draft and free agency, and a new head coach who can develop that talent and adapt his scheme around said talent.
Mistakes happen every year in the NFL. As fans, all we can try to do is pull for the guys wearing the burgundy and gold and support them through their endeavors. Maybe this fan, like many others, pulled for the wrong horse at the finish and I missed my exacta-box.
Lesson learned... but I’m sure it won’t be the last time I fall victim to the desire to finally find “a guy”.