Ron Rivera announces Taylor Heinicke as Commanders’ QB1

Taylor Heinicke will remain the starting quarterback for the Washington Commanders, head coach Ron Rivera told reporters after the club’s 23-10 win over the Houston Texans after the game.

“We’re going with Taylor,” Rivera said. “We will work Carson [Wentz] back in and see where Carson stands when he’s ready to be the backup. Then we’ll go from there.”

Heinicke entered the lineup for the commanders in Week 7 after Wentz, the team’s Week 1 starter, suffered a fractured finger the week before. Washington has since won four of Heinicke’s five starts, including an impressive win over the previously undefeated Philadelphia Eagles last Monday night.

“It’s a special moment. I’ve been working towards it all my life,” said Heinicke after being named a regular. “Being a quarterback in the NFL is every kid’s dream. It means a lot to me, it’s very special to me. I just want to keep this thing going.”

Rivera stressed after the game that Heinicke is not on a short leash to move forward.

“I’m not trying to pull anyone out. I’m not trying to pull anyone,” Rivera said. “What I’m looking for is that we continue to play well and do things that we’re supposed to do. This is not a competition but a controversy. That’s the last thing on my mind. … The most important thing for the quarterbacks is that Taylor will start as we prepare to play Atlanta.”

For the second time in as many years, Heinicke is now Washington’s QB1, having started the season as the club’s backup. In 2021, Heinicke replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick in Week 1 and started 15 of the team’s last 16 competitions, with his only absence due to a coronavirus outbreak.

This time around, Heinicke – who admitted he’s much more comfortable with a year of starting experience – took control of Washington’s starting QB job and delivered a boost of energy to the Commanders’ offense when the group desperately needed it.

“He continued to bring great energy to the building, great energy to that offense,” said running back Brian Robinson Jr. “He’s an energetic person and someone that we can easily outpace. [He’s] someone who can easily motivate us. We are delighted to have him and look forward to continued success.”

After starting the season 1-4, the Commanders now sit 6-5 — the first time Washington has been above .500 this late in the season since 2018. Washington’s success with Heinicke under center is the main reason the Commanders are keeping him at quarterback.

“Win. That’s the truth,” Rivera said. “There we are right now.”

Heinicke didn’t have his best individual performance in Houston on Sunday. The quarterback completed 15 of 27 passes for 191 yards without touchdowns or interceptions. For a second week in a row, Heinicke failed to throw a touchdown pass.

And although the commanders controlled Sunday’s game in Houston from start to finish, Heinicke feels the offense left a lot to be desired.

“I think we left a lot of points on the field,” said Heinicke. We need to play a lot cleaner but a win is a win. It’s hard to win in this league. I’m proud of the boys but there’s a lot of room for improvement.”

Statistics don’t tell the whole story, of course, but the numbers show that Washington’s offense was more productive with Heinicke in the middle. The running game behind the duo of Robinson and Antonio Gibson has really taken off over the past few weeks. Terry McLaurin, the team’s top wide receiver, was also targeted (and contributed much more) at Heinicke.

In 2021, Heinicke didn’t have nearly as many talented skill players around as he did this season. McLaurin and Gibson have shown what they can do with football, but this year’s additions of Robinson, Jahan Dotson, who served as full-back in the first round, and a healthy Curtis Samuel were just as significant to the Commanders’ offense.

“It’s a team you want to be in, definitely a quarterback,” Heinicke said. “With all the weapons we have, with the offense playing as it is right now and the defense we have. … For me, it’s just trying to get better every day.”

Heinicke, who has grown close with Wentz since he joined the team this offseason, admitted the whole situation is likely difficult for Washington’s former QB1. Heinicke had a lot of positive things to say about how Wentz has handled everything over the past five weeks.

“It must be hard for him. I understand. It’s nothing he did wrong. It’s a strange circumstance,” said Heinicke. “He’s done a great job. He helps me in every meeting wherever he can. He’s in my ear when I’m back on the sidelines. He tries to help me. He’s a great leader for this team. And I do it.” I don’t see the faltering with what Ron just said. He’s a great teammate, a great person and someone you want in the dressing room.

Heinicke’s wild football journey is well documented, from the XFL to sleeping on his sister’s couch to starting over in the NFL again. If anyone knows how quickly things can change in the league, it’s Heinicke.

Now with another opportunity to prove himself, Heinicke is ready to tackle the Commanders’ first gig with ease.

“I’ve said that before: I use every opportunity I get and have fun with it,” said Heinicke. “Something can change in two weeks and he’ll be back, who knows? So this week I’m going to have fun with that, go out there and do my best and hopefully win. That’s how I’m going to go about it and I feel like I’m doing my best do your best.”


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