Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Commanders have been on a roll.
Since starting the season 1-4, they have won six of their last seven games and have and have improved to 7-5. The Seattle Seahawks' overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday meant that the Commanders are currently the seventh seed in the NFC playoff picture. It was a remarkable turnaround for a team that was among the worst five games into the season.
The Commanders' turnaround coincided with quarterback Carson Wentz' injury in their win over the Chicago Bears. The former Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts star suffered a fractured thumb against the Bears and was placed on IR. This paved the way for backup Taylor Heinicke to start and win the starting job, which he succeeded in doing.
The Washington Commanders could have activated Carson Wentz for the game against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, as he was eligible to be reinstated from IR. Instead, but they opted to play Heinicke. It proved to be the correct decision as Washington won 19-13.
During an appearance on the BallFather podcast last week, former Falcons HC Mike Smith explained why head coach Ron Rivera preferred Heinicke. Here's what he said to host Reggie Roberts:
"You know what [Taylor Heinicke]'s? He's doing what [head coach] Ron [Rivera] wants in his quarterbacks. He's very efficient. He's not, you know, he's not throwing it to the other team."
Mike Smith believes Taylor Heinicke has earned HC Ron Rivera's trust and won the locker room over
Smith continued to compliment Heinicke, clearly impressed with how the QB has earned the trust of not just HC Ron Rivera, but the locker room too:
"He seems like he's the leader in the locker room. The teams feels comfortable with him under center, in the huddle calling play. You know, when you lead a team to win four out of five when they were struggling, that says a lot."
Watch the full podcast episode below:
Commanders tight end Logan Thomas' comments about Heinicke from back in October attest to Mike Smith's claim. He said:
"The kid [Heinicke] is a gamer, and I think everyone knows that"
Earning the trust of his head coach and teammates and performing exceptionally on the field has helped Heinicke earn the starting job in Washington. It's unclear how long he will be the QB1 for the Commanders, but for now, the job is his, ahead of a former Super Bowl champion.
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