Taylor Heinicke failed to pull off a famous win for Washington on Saturday, but the quarterback studying for an engineering degree may have laid the foundation for his future in the NFL.
Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown, in addition to rushing for 46 yards and one more score, in a 31-23 playoff loss for the NFC East champions to the Buccaneers.
Those add up to impressive numbers for someone who wasn’t even destined to play in the NFL wild card game.
MORE: Heinicke’s Game Leaves Fans Attacking Haskins
Alex Smith had led Washington to the division title in Week 17, but was unable to overcome a calf injury in time to start against Tampa Bay.
With their first option out, Washington turned to a 27-year-old they had only signed with their practice team in early December, an undrafted quarterback who had spent time with four other league teams and had previously released a grand total. of 58 career pass attempts in the NFL.
The new addition came to attention when he replaced Dwayne Haskins, the underperforming 2019 Washington first-round pick, in the fourth quarter of a Week 16 loss to the Panthers. Still, this was different. These were the playoffs. This was a game against Tom Brady. This was in prime time.
While there was no fairy tale outcome for the underdogs in the end, Heinicke emerged as the headline news on the opening day of the postseason.
His performance made him the third quarterback to have at least 300 passing yards and 40 rushing yards in a playoff debut, a feat previously accomplished by Daunte Culpepper and Tim Tebow (who won, by the way).
“I have nothing but respect for No. 4,” Washington catcher Terry McLaurin said of his quarterback after the loss. “The way he came in and handled his affairs at one point when we found out Alex wasn’t going to be able to go. He was prepared for the moment. That’s what this league is all about, being prepared for your moment.” . “
So what’s next for the new hero? Heinicke is ready to become a free agent, but later made it clear that he would like to return to Washington. The franchise ended Haskins’ experiment considerably early by releasing him last month and while Smith is still under contract, he will be 37 when the next regular season begins.
Head coach Ron Rivera, who described his quarterback’s performance as “brave,” was not drawn to laying out the team’s plans for the future immediately afterward.
“We’ll see what happens. He was very proud of what he did, going out and competing like he did and helping us get to where we are today,” said Rivera, who had previously worked with Heinicke with the Panthers. media.
2 players who were sixth round picks or later (including UDFA) had more than 250 passing yards and a career TD in their first playoff start in the Super Bowl era
Tom Brady in the 2001 Divisional Round vs OAK
Taylor Heinicke (vs Tom Brady) in the 2020 wild card round
– NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 10, 2021
There may be alternative options elsewhere as well, considering many will have seen what Heinicke produced against the Bucs. At the very least, he’s shaping up to be a solid endorsement in a sport where they’re coveted: Teams are willing to pay to have a reliable replacement waiting behind the scenes.
“I am proud of myself and happy that the coaches have believed in me and given me the opportunity. Hopefully I can do it again next year,” Heinicke said.
“I want to be in the NFL, I want to keep playing. It’s a dream of mine and [I will] keep working to achieve it. “
Heinicke should get his desire to keep playing, whether in Washington again or elsewhere.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.