What does Taylor Heinicke need to do to earn starting job in 2022?
By Jerry Trotta
We’re approaching the end of the 2021 NFL regular season, and the most burning question surrounding the Washington Football Team, of course, lies at the quarterback position. Sound familiar?
At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will be under center for the franchise come Week 1 of next campaign. Will it be Matt Corral? Or will the Ole Miss phenom come off the board earlier than expected and force the front office to pivot to Kenny Pickett after his electric senior year for Pittsburgh?
It’s also possible that Washington pursues another stopgap option on the trade market. If that’s the case, we also wouldn’t rule them out of being in the running to poach one of Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson.
You know what idea hasn’t gotten discussed enough, though? Taylor Heinicke returning as the starter in 2022. With that in mind, we thought it’d be a good idea to speculate on what the 28-year-old needs to do to make that a reality, and why he might deserve that chance.
What does Taylor Heinicke need to do to be the Washington Football Team’s starting QB in 2022?
It’s funny how quickly the Heinicke narrative can change. Both earlier in the season when the defense was in shambles and during the recent four-game win streak, fans were talking themselves into the idea that the former undrafted talent is franchise quarterback material.
However, one poor outing — like Week 14 vs Dallas and Week 3 vs Buffalo — and folks are ready to kick him to the curb. There has to be a middle ground. Pretty much every upper-echelon QB not-named Aaron Rodgers is susceptible to the occasional stinker. Take a look at Patrick Mahomes’ game log this year.
It ain’t pretty.
On his best day, Heinicke is nowhere near that tier of quarterbacks, but it seems noteworthy that he has more wins this season than the aforementioned Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan, and just one fewer than Baker Mayfield, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins and Tua Tagovailoa, the No. 5 overall pick last year.
Bottom line is a .500 record (6-6) isn’t bad.
What if we told you that Heinicke also ranks in the top 15 in both completion percentage (66.5%) and touchdowns (19) and tied for third in both fourth quarter comebacks (three) and game-winning drives (four)?
Based on the eye test, Heinicke isn’t a great QB. Nor will he ever be. However, he’s proven that he can win games and have Washington in playoff contention despite a lack of continuity on the offensive line, his security blanket (Logan Thomas) playing just six games and no consistent receiving option behind Terry McLaurin.
Just ask Jonathan Allen how he feels about Heinicke.
Let’s also not forget how much of a turnstile the secondary was early on. If the group showed some semblance of resistance over the first two months, Heinicke maybe has another win or two on his 2021 resume.
Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that Heinicke only has 13 NFL starts under his belt. There’s plenty of room for improvement. While his arm strength will never be elite, who’s to say he can’t refine his mechanics during the offseason?
If Heinicke can have Washington in contention for a playoff berth entering Week 18, we’d have no qualms with running it back with him under center if the front office doesn’t love any of the incoming prospects and is unable to complete a blockbuster trade for a star who will take this roster to the next level.
And if he wins a playoff game? Well, this debate would be moot.
Heinicke likely isn’t the long-term solution at quarterback, but he’s more than capable of keeping Washington relevant until the front office is ready to finally end its two-decade long search for a franchise guy.