Maybe coach Ron Rivera is right about Taylor Heinicke

The last time the Washington Football Team beat Tom Brady was the first time they faced him — Sept 28, 2003. They beat the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots 20-17. Brady threw three interceptions.

They reported 83,632 people in attendance that day. It wasn’t Ghost Town Field in those days.

The coach was Steve Spurrier. His quarterback that day was Patrick Ramsey, who didn’t do much to win the game, completing 10 of 22 passes for 147 yards. But then again, he was Dan Snyder’s quarterback.

On Sunday, the Washington Football Team defeated Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions — this time the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — for the second time, and this time, the quarterback had a lot to do with it.

Taylor Heinicke completed 26 of 32 passes for 256 yards and one beautiful, magnificent touchdown pass to DeAndre Carter. And he led a 10 minute, 29 second fourth-quarter, 19-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in the final touchdown that sealed the 29-19 win for Washington.

The old ball coach would have loved Heinicke. I think I might be falling for him as well.

Washington Football coach Ron Rivera is certainly smitten with him. Asked about his quarterback’s play Sunday, Rivera replied, “That’s what we know he’s capable of. In spite of the fact that we didn’t have all of the weapons we wanted out there … He really showed what he’s capable of and you feel really good about that.”

Not everyone thought he was capable of this — certainly not me.

This was an answer game of sorts for Heinicke. The questions were popping up as the erratic performances began to pile up in recent weeks. It appeared that Heinicke might be fulfilling the destiny typical of the backup quarterback — the more they play, the more they are exposed, their flaws obvious and unmistakable.

After four straight losses, there were questions put to Rivera about a quarterback change. After all, the one he traded for last year, the one he professed could have accomplished what Alex Smith did last season, winning five of their final seven games to win the NFC East — Kyle Smith — was sitting there on the bench, waiting to prove Rivera right.

It would have been easy to make the change, and no one would have blamed the coach. But Rivera stuck with Heinicke, and his faith paid off. 

Now Heinicke likely has the rest of the season to convince people that he could be the quarterback of the future for this team — not that he is, but that he could be.

It seemed like an absurd notion before Sunday. The coach himself raised questions about Heinicke’s future last week.

“The one thing right now that really is probably the hardest thing for us to figure out is, do we have a franchise quarterback right now?” Rivera asked. “Is that guy on our roster? Or is that guy going to be in free agency? Is that guy going to be in the draft next year? So, we’ve got to continue to work with what we have, continue to try and grow with what we have and try and develop who we have because if we do have what we’re looking for and we can plug in a guy or that guy does develop on our roster, then we’re going to be fine.”

Now, with all three wins this season resulting in large part from the quarterback’s composed play, at the very least, it gives one pause to consider the notion that they do have what they are looking for. Consider — not conclude.

If the Washington Football Team winds up in a good draft position for a quarterback they believe has an upside to be a franchise leader, they’ll likely have to consider it. And if there is a veteran or free agent passer with a track record of success at the position, they’ll likely have to consider him as well.

I am not saying that Heinicke is the guy. After all, it’s hard to ignore his track record of mediocrity, a 28-year-old journeyman bouncing from one NFL team to another with barely a look and then winding up as a backup — a BACKUP — on an XFL team.

But you have to sit up and take notice of what he did on Sunday. He appeared on his way to a benching, and instead led the team to the biggest win of his short NFL career. Let us not forget this was just his 10th start. And stop with the notion that he has Tampa Bay’s “number,” based on his standout performance in last season’s wild-card game. This Washington Football Team has trouble matching up with anybody.

But Rivera believes in Heinicke. And for the first time, I think the coach might be right.

It’s certainly more fun to root for Heinicke than dismiss him.

Asked about his emotions after the game, Heinicke said, “I got a big cooler of Bud Lights waiting for me.”

Didn’t everyone?

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.