Carson Wentz to take over for Taylor Heinicke as Commanders QB?

Taylor Heinicke might be the most important purpose the Washington Commanders are within the playoff race in any respect proper now. He settled an erratic offense down when he took over for an injured Carson Wentz in Week 7. He energized a sagging locker room. The Commanders, then 1-4, went on a 5-1 run.

But none of that ever appeared to fully win over coach Ron Rivera, who looks as if he is about to tug the plug on the Heinicke Period. And if he does, simply as he promised, it will not be a “knee-jerk” choice.

It’s a choice that has been constructing for some time.

If Rivera does hand the reins again to Wentz for the ultimate two video games of the season – must-win video games at house in opposition to the Cleveland Browns (1 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX) and the Dallas Cowboys – it will not simply be about Heinicke’s two fourth-quarter turnovers within the 37-20 loss in San Francisco on Saturday. It will not even simply be in regards to the Commanders’ 0-2-1 slide that has them clinging to a playoff berth by only a half-game.

If Rivera makes the change after assembly together with his coaches on Monday, it will likely be in regards to the “whole picture,” he mentioned. And that image reveals that there has not been one level over the previous 9 weeks when Rivera has appeared or sounded fully snug with Heinicke as his starter. It has appeared for some time as if he was simply ready for an opportunity to remind everybody why Wentz was nonetheless his man.

And make no mistake: The 29-year-old Wentz has all the time been Rivera’s man. He made that crystal clear again in mid-October when he angrily known as “bulls–t” on experiences that he was in opposition to the offseason commerce with the Colts that introduced Wentz to Washington for 2 third-round picks. Do not forget, Rivera had 15 video games of Heinicke final season when the Commanders went 7-10 and his quarterback and staff wilted down the stretch. He wasn’t searching for extra.

That is why the Commanders spent the offseason looking for a brand new quarterback. They settled on Wentz, and he appeared good early. He threw seven landing passes in his first two video games and averaged 325 passing yards. Yeah, there have been errors — three interceptions — however the Commanders scored 28 and 27 factors and averaged 393 yards. It was one of the best their offense appeared all yr.

The subsequent three video games below Wentz had been horrible. After which there was that day, after a 21-17 loss in Tennessee, when Rivera mentioned “quarterback” was the explanation the Commanders had fallen behind the opposite groups within the NFC East — sarcastically after Wentz threw for 359 yards and two touchdowns with only one interception. The coach was making an attempt to say that the opposite groups had been constructing round a franchise quarterback for a number of years, whereas he was solely in his fifth sport with Wentz. However the soundbite was damning. Rivera even apologized to Wentz and the staff.

But there was nonetheless no actual indication Rivera was even considering a quarterback change till Wentz fractured a finger on his throwing hand in Chicago on Oct. 13. Even after Heinicke began rolling and his teammates appeared to like him and the Commanders obtained again within the playoff race, Rivera’s reward of Heinicke all the time sounded lukewarm, as if he had been simply ready for the bubble to burst.

Possibly he was simply being pragmatic, or making an attempt to be truthful to Wentz. However there have been different points, too. The offense below Heinicke by no means appeared to function on all cylinders prefer it did through the first two weeks of the season. The Commanders averaged 20.4 factors per sport and 346.9 yards throughout Heinicke’s run, previous to the sport in San Francisco, and Rivera all the time felt they might do significantly better. Heinicke was solely throwing for 211.6 yards per sport.

The QB additionally lived a bit of too near the sting for Rivera’s tastes. Sure, Wentz had a penchant for making horrible selections, as he confirmed together with his six interceptions in seven video games. However he was nonetheless studying a brand new offense. The 6-foot-5, 237-pounder additionally had a much bigger arm and was extra correct than Heinicke, who appeared to sail two or three passes per sport far over his meant receiver’s head.

That is why the door has all the time been open to Wentz. Even final week, within the wake of the Commanders’ 20-12 loss to the Giants, which was simply Heinicke’s second loss in eight begins, Rivera admitted {that a} quarterback change had been “talked about” and was “something that, to be quite frank, I do have to think about at some point.”

So it should not have been a shock when phrase leaked out Saturday morning that he had a plan in place to make the quarterback change in San Francisco if and when Heinicke struggled, nor ought to it have been a shock to anybody when he truly did it.

Sarcastically, Heinicke was truly “pretty good” on Saturday, in keeping with Rivera. He was 8-of-11 for 89 yards and a landing within the first half and threw one other landing cross early within the second. However Heinicke’s fumble and interception on his first two fourth-quarter drives offered “an opportunity for us to see where Carson was,” Rivera mentioned. And after Wentz went 12-of-16 for 123 yards and a landing within the ultimate 9 minutes, Rivera mentioned, “He did a nice job.”

“He had good command of what we were doing,” Rivera mentioned. “He stood tall in the pocket and got the ball out quickly a couple times and threw some good balls.”

Was it that significantly better than Heinicke? Probably not. However Rivera positive gave the impression of he was extra snug with what Wentz did.

Not that any of that’s new for Heinicke, an undrafted free agent in 2015 who has had an uphill battle to be a beginning quarterback from the beginning. It took him six years, 5 NFL groups and a stint within the XFL simply to get his first actual alternative. So he meant it when he mentioned, “I get it. I’ve heard things like that my whole life.”

Taylor Heinicke on journey from XFL to NFL

Taylor Heinicke on journey from XFL to NFL

Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke joins Colin Cowherd to debate his journey from the XFL to the NFL and what it took to get the place he’s right now.

He is aware of the truth is that efficiency isn’t the one factor that issues with a quarterback. He is aware of Rivera is invested in Wentz. Because the coach loudly defined again in October, “I’m the f—ing guy that pulled out the sheets of paper, that looked at the analytics, that watched the tape” on Wentz earlier than the deal was made. After which he was the one who greenlighted the $28.3 million that Commanders proprietor Dan Snyder has spent on Wentz this season. He is the one who handed Wentz the keys to the offense and to his staff.

So do not be shocked within the subsequent two days when Rivera does it once more and places his staff’s playoff destiny again within the palms of the person he needed at quarterback from the start. Wentz is his man and he was all the time going to get one other shot at working the Commanders. Even Heinicke appeared to grasp it was all the time only a matter of time.

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Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports activities, overlaying the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the earlier six years overlaying the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and earlier than that, 16 years overlaying the Giants and the NFL for the New York Each day Information. Comply with him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.

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