Forget Mitch Trubisky, Marcus Mariota, Matt Ryan or even re-signing Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Washington Football Team has its veteran quarterback for 2022 – Taylor Heinicke.
Oh, the team may still look for a first-round passer next spring. Owner Dan Snyder needs to sell tickets after the team's recent admission that 52,000 attendance figures are real numbers versus persistent propaganda of the Snyder era. The owner is the owner and after 22 years he's not changing, despite busts in quarterbacks Patrick Ramsey, Robert Griffin III and Dwayne Haskins.
Washington needs a veteran passer next season and Heinicke has earned the right to compete for the starting job, even with a high-priced rookie probable. Washington won't find another veteran league-wide who will fare any better than Heinicke has done.
Spend free agent money on an offensive lineman or linebacker. Invest an early draft pick on a running back. With the team now drafting 10th overall at 4-6 and a few more wins still possible this season, Washington won't be in position to take an elite passer, so fix other trouble spots. Oh, the team can still find a quarterback in the middle rounds, but can't market that player as effectively. Snyder will demand a quarterback, but Heinicke's recent play is good enough not to panic at the position.
Heinicke has a 91.4 rating with 15 touchdowns, 9 interceptions and 2,390 yards. That's as solid as anyone not named Rodgers, Brady, Murray, Mahomes or Cousins. It's certainly better than middling journeymen that fill most rosters.
The key is Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner focusing more on how to use the offense around Heinicke rather than making the passer some game manager. Heinicke is a baller who's never going to be a textbook passer with a big arm. But, he's steadily improving and should do more so once getting second looks at teams.
Watch Heinicke's eyes. See him finding third reads. Sometimes it's a problem by taking sacks while waiting for receivers. Heinicke needs to learn to throw the ball away rather than get sacked. That he threw side-armed for two completions is something that can't be taught. It's the competitor in him.
Victories over Tampa Bay and Carolina were quality efforts. Heinicke threw three pinpoint touchdown passes against Carolina that he wouldn't have made in September. Heinicke posted a 141.3 rating versus Carolina and 110.4 against Tampa Bay. Aside from bad efforts against New Orleans and Denver, Heinicke has been respectable or better each week. Certainly, better than expected.
The best part of Heinicke is his belief that there's no game he can't win, no play he can't make. It's not arrogance that gets him in trouble, but confidence in comebacks.
Washington should show the same confidence come the offseason. Maybe Heinicke isn't a franchise passer, but then it's still early. There are plenty of teams that would swap quarterbacks with Washington right now. For once, Snyder should realize the best passer is the one currently in uniform rather than discard Brad Johnson and Kirk Cousins for someone better who has never come.