SNIDER: Heinicke gives Washington better chance


The Washington Football Team finally has the right quarterback starting.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was always the comfortable pick after signing a $10 million deal over the offseason. It bought Washington 20 minutes of comfort before Fitzpatrick suffered a hip injury that will cause him to spend at least three games on the injured reserve. Most likely, it will take longer.

Meanwhile, Taylor Heinicke has a chance to become the permanent starter beginning with the New York Giants on Thursday. Heinicke was never truly given a chance to be No. 1 in camp. The team had too much money in Fitzpatrick. An old veteran following Alex Smith's savior act last season made Fitzpatrick an easy one to choose over Heinicke with a scant resume.

But, Heinicke is a baller. Not the best practice quarterback, which always makes coaches nervous. Coaches like guys who play well on weekdays. Jeff George was awesome on Wednesday and Thursdays, but so bad on Sundays when given his chance that Marty Schottenheimer didn't bother demoting him. Instead, an 0-2 start sent George packing.

Heinicke's the opposite. Bring in the crowd, cue the band, turn on the lights and he's turning nothing into something. He's not a top 10 passer, but given the season he might make the top 15. And, that was all Washington supposedly wanted with its defense before the latter looked awful against the Los Angeles Chargers in a 20-16 loss on Sunday.

Heinicke was 11 of 15 for 122 yards with one touchdown and a 119.3 rating. His first two throws sailed high, probably from nervousness. He benefited from a couple incredible catches by receivers, but that touchdown throw to Logan Thomas was sharp. If Antonio Gibson doesn't fumble on Washington's three-yard line, the team probably wins.

The offense looked alive with Heinicke after a perplexing play-calling start by Scott Turner. Maybe the offensive coordinator was trying to set up the Chargers for later plays, but it was vanilla early and Fitzpatrick completed only three of six for 13 yards. That offense was going nowhere.

Heinicke's agility is also an upgrade over Fitzpatrick, who was injured on a blind sack. Heinicke is always scampering somewhere. He may not have deep arm strength, but this offense can survive and even thrive on short passes given the speed of receivers Terry McLaurin and Dyami Brown.

Heinicke gives Washington a better chance of winning than Fitzpatrick. Sure, everyone loves Fitzpatrick. Players considered him their favorite cool uncle. In fact, Fitzpatrick's old enough to nearly be their father, so teammates gravitated to him. But, players also like Heinicke's grit and a long shot story like some of them. Mostly, players like winning more than who's the starting quarterback.

The season isn't over with Heinicke. Instead, it's just beginning.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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