Ranking the top 5 backup quarterbacks in Washington Commanders franchise history

A look back at the best backup quarterbacks in Commanders franchise history.
Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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Who are the greatest backup quarterbacks in the rich and proud history of the Washington Commanders franchise spanning more than nine decades?

With atrocious luck at the quarterback position in recent years, the Washington Commanders have often needed their second-string signal callers to take significant snaps during the season.

Having an adequate backup arm is a necessity in the nation's capital, as supporters of the once proud franchise can certainly attest.

Fortunate to have had the following passers as ancillary options, Commanders fans can gaze back fondly on these brilliant backups who often kept the ever-sinking ship afloat whenever they were asked to fill in under center in Washington.

On this topic, we ranked the five best backup quarterback options in Commanders franchise history.

5. Taylor Heinicke - Former Commanders QB

Undrafted out of Old Dominion in 2015, Taylor Heinicke bounced around NFL practice squads and the XFL before landing with the now-Washington Commanders at the tail end of the 2020 season.

The relatively unknown understudy was thrust into the starting role after Alex Smith was shut down due to leg soreness. Heinicke ended up the man under center for Washington's 2020 wildcard playoff game versus Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While Washington would lose to the eventual Super Bowl champions, the legend of Heinicke was born. The emergency quarterback threw for 306 yards with one touchdown and one interception while also rushing for 46 yards and another score on the ground.

Heinicke was rewarded with a two-year deal to stay on as the backup in Washington, as the team then brought in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick to be the starter in 2021. He was injured in Week 1 of the 2021 season and the understudy went on to start 15 games for the Commanders, racking up 3,419 yards passing to go with 20 touchdowns to 15 interceptions while completing 65 percent of his throws.

Washington again looked for an upgrade to Heinicke in 2022, trading with the Indianapolis Colts for washed-up veteran Carson Wentz. A move questioned by many fans of the franchise and most around the league.

Wentz predictably bottomed out in Washington, proving incapable of leading an NFL offense effectively. Heinicke was made the starter after an injury forced him out of the lineup and the fan-favorite led the Commanders to a 5-3-1 record before head coach Ron Rivera inexplicably went back to his trade acquisition with a playoff spot on the line.

Heinicke was a consummate professional throughout his time in D.C. Despite his obvious limitations, he was always ready when his number was called, consistently performing above expectations in tough situations.

The often-overlooked passer signed a two-year, $14 million deal with his hometown Atlanta Falcons this offseason. Heinicke will always be fondly remembered in Washington for his professionalism, positivity, and passion for the game.