WFT releases Haskins, going with former ODU QB Heinicke if Smith not available

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Taylor Heinicke didn’t even get a star rating from the recruiting services, and only had one college offer – ODU, then at the FCS level.

Despite putting up Madden-like numbers in high school, no one gave the 6’1”, 180-pounder with the big arm a sniff.

The same thing happened after he put up more Madden-like numbers at ODU. He went undrafted, got on a couple NFL practice squads, signed with an XFL team – and get this, didn’t even get on the field in that league before it folded.

And now, for the moment, anyway, Heinicke is the face of the Washington Football Team, as the franchise looks to get back to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

Coach Ron Rivera announced Monday that Heinicke would start Sunday’s regular-season finale against Philadelphia if Alex Smith isn’t cleared to play, and then emphasized the decision with this bit of stunning news: the team waived 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins.

Rivera said he had more “confidence with what I saw from Taylor and the way he controlled the tempo of the game, the decisions he made” after Heinicke relieved Haskins in the fourth quarter of Washington’s 20-13 loss to Carolina, and led the team on one scoring drive and another that ended on a fourth-down incompletion following a holding call that erased another TD pass off the scoreboard.

Heinicke, in contrast to Haskins, looked calm and secure in the pocket in crunch time, finishing with 12 completions in 19 attempts for 137 yards and a TD.

Haskins struggled again on Sunday, completing 14 of 28 passes for 154 yards and two INTs, at the tail end of a week that began with reports of Haskins having spent the previous Sunday night at a party at a strip club in violation of NFL COVID-19 guidelines.

Rivera responded by stripping Haskins of his team captaincy and fining the second-year QB $40,000.

Then the team flamed out on the field for the second straight week with Haskins in for the injured Smith, who has thrown for 1,420 yards, four touchdowns, six INTs and a 79.0 passer rating in seven games, and led Washington on a four-game winning streak and the verge of the franchise’s first NFC East title since 2015.

Haskins’ numbers were similar – 1,439 yards, five touchdowns, seven INTs and a 73.0 passer rating – but the stat that counts the most is wins, and Washington won just one of his six starts in 2020, the season opener way back on Sept. 13.

It says a lot that Rivera, in his first year in Washington, has more confidence in Heinicke, who has one career start, in Carolina in 2018, than he did in last year’s first-round pick, who will count as $8.5 million in dead salary-cap space in 2021.

“He showed patience, he went through his progressions nice and quick, so the timing was good,” Rivera said. “Do I think he could handle it? Absolutely. He showed what I was hoping to see when he got his opportunity. It wasn’t too big.”

Story by Chris Graham


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