In all the choruses of anger and frustration following the most recent loss of the Washington Football Team, I have been most surprised by the one thing I have not heard. There has been plenty of “bench Landon Collins” and “fire Jack Del Rio.” I have heard “run the ball more” and even the occasional “unleash Sammis Reyes.” I have heard how the quartet of free agents – Fitzpatrick, Samuel, Jackson, and Humphries – have harkened back to the best-forgotten days of Archuleta and George and Sanders and Smith. But here is what I have not heard:
“WE WANT KYLE!”
Not even a peep. To be sure, the Taylor Heinicke rose has begun to wither over the past few games and many fans who were on the fence have leapt off. It has to be clear, even to his supporters, that Taylor Heinicke does not have an NFL arm. I have tried to point this out in the past only to be shouted down by the lovers of a good underdog story. And to be sure, Heinicke is a great story.
It’s just, he isn’t a very good professional quarterback.
For those of you who were expecting the next Kurt Warner, please. Grow up. Warner’s arm, which he displayed in the Arena Football League before coming to the Rams, was well above-average. I always thought the Warner comparison was ludicrous, but I held a tiny bit of hope that Heinicke could emulate Jeff Garcia, whom he resembles a lot more closely in terms of body type and skill set. Garcia was an effective quarterback for many years in the NFL.
But Garcia, like Warner, or Dave Krieg or Warren Moon, or any of the other undrafted gems you could point out, had tremendous success in a professional football league by the time he hit his mid-20s. It happened to be the Canadian Football League for Garcia, but no matter. Professional scouts and coaches checked him out and saw something.
That simply never happened with Heinicke. He got looked at, and he got passed over. Time and time again.
That may be why Washington Football Team fans are loath to turn on him. Since I know it seems like I am kicking a lovable guy when he is down, let me admit right up front that Heinicke is better than I thought he would be. He is tough. He shows up well-prepared. He makes some great improvisational plays. And he got Washington to 30 points twice this season. I think he has earned the right to be in the league.
As a back-up.
Because those occasionally brilliant improvs simply don’t cut it for a starter. And he does not have the arm to make consistent throws throughout an entire game.
The one touchdown he generated against Kansas City was instructive. Ricky Seals-Jones actually had to stop and wait for the ball to arrive, then start running again. Fortunately, he was so open, it didn’t matter. Terry McClaurin had sucked all three defenders on the left side of the field to the short flat, leaving both Seals-Jones and Dax Milne free deep. Heinicke could have either, and credit where it’s due, he did get the ball to the receiver.
For the lone Washington Football Team touchdown of the day.
Why isn’t Washington QB Kyle Allen getting a fair shake?
This against a Chiefs team that entered the game dead-last in scoring defense. Playing without their best defender in Chris Jones. Playing without a starting corner. A team that lost a starting linebacker in the first half. A team whose other best defensive player, Tyrann Mathieu, was essentially playing with one hand.
And quarterbacking a team that was the beneficiary of three turnovers created by the Washington Football Team defense.
And still, no calls for Kyle Allen. The most I have heard is the occasional question about when injured starter Ryan Fitzpatrick can return.
Look, I’m not saying that Kyle Allen is going to save the season. Washington began the Kansas City game with five projected starters on offense unavailable. And they lost Antonio Gibson during the game. That’s half your starting offense missing. Those are tough odds to overcome. It certainly is not all on Heinicke.
But let me point out a couple of things. Playing about a quarter of the season in 2020, Allen posted a QBR of 74.5. That is outstanding. Do you know how many quarterbacks surpassed that in 2020? Three: Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers and Josh Allen.
I know – limited sample size. Valid point. Kyle Allen is not that good. (His QBR was decidedly worse during a larger sample size in Carolina in 2019.) But still, if you watched him play last year, it was obvious he was better suited to run Scott Turner’s offense than either Alex Smith or Dwayne Haskins. If you want to argue that Heinicke was even better suited, fine. But Heinkicke has had a little run now, and if anything, he is regressing.
Whatever you may think about Kyle Allen, he has an arm. That has always been his calling card, from the time he was a prized high school recruit. The knock on Allen has always been that he doesn’t process the game fast enough. He doesn’t make good decisions. That may be true. I don’t know if any of us really know. But that mental part of the game can be improved with coaching and reps. It is easier to fix that than to fix a below-average arm.
And it’s not Heinicke’s height. Russell Wilson is the same height as Heinicke. Kyler Murray is shorter. They both have cannons. It’s not the height.
Sonny was the same height. It’s the arm.
Heinicke is far from the only reason that Washington has lost four games. Against KC, it became clear that if Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were healthy enough to be on the field, the Washington defense was helpless to stop them. If you think I’m being too harsh on the quarterback, I’ll take that pushback.
But this is Washington.
This is the town that pined for Babe Laufenberg and Colt Brennan. This is the town of Sonny v Billy. (You know who the fans wanted in that showdown? Whoever was not starting. Then they wanted Joe.) We wanted Jay to replace Joe. Then Doug to take over for Jay. Then Mark to supplant Doug.
And that was when Washington was mostly a winning team.
We still always want the guy who isn’t playing. (Except for John Beck. Nobody other than Mike Shanahan wanted him.)
Maybe it’s because Taylor Heinicke is already a great underdog story. Maybe that’s why the push to move on from him is not gaining any momentum. A lot of fans seem heavily invested in seeing a guy prove all the so-called experts wrong. And even a curmudgeon like me who does not think you can go very far with a weak-armed starting quarterback will admit he is fun to watch.
He just isn’t a starting caliber NFL quarterback.
Maybe you don’t think Kyle Allen is either. That’s fine. I won’t beg for a “We Want Kyle” movement. I’ll just say that I think he should get a shot. I think the offense will perform better with a bigger arm.
I’ll just say I WANT KYLE.