Taylor Heinicke was on the Minnesota Vikings roster for a little over two seasons in 2015, 2016, and a smidgen in 2017. He never set foot in a regular-season contest, but onlookers of the team saw pieces of his skill set during preseason stints and training camps.
Just before the season that Minnesota made an unforeseen push to the NFC Championship, 2017, Heinicke was released and scooped by the New England Patriots. That didn’t last long. New England dropped him five weeks later, and Heinicke bounced around to the Houston Texans and Carolina Panthers.
His future at the moment is undetermined, but he found a landing spot in 2020 that seems a bit sturdier with the Washington Football Team.
In fact, Heinicke posted the NFL’s best performance by a quarterback in a single game during the 2020 postseason.
QB Grades vs. TB this postseason:
WC: Taylor Heinicke 92.0
Div: Drew Brees 48.8
CC: Aaron Rodgers 89.2
SB: Patrick Mahomes 65.8 pic.twitter.com/stD2vxcDHH
— PFF (@PFF) February 9, 2021
He went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champions in the Wildcard Round of the 2020 playoffs. The 27-year-old popped off for 306 yards passing with two total touchdowns, and Pro Football Focus just loved it – evidently.
Washington encountered an improbable run to the playoffs and even hosted a home playoff game because they won the laughable NFC East. No team asserted a stranglehold on the division during the pandemic season, so the Football Team’s 7-9 record was just enough to book a ticket to postseason football at home.
When they got there, Heinicke and Washington looked the part. Head coach Ron Rivera’s bunch arguably handed the Buccaneers their most challenging bout in the postseason, in part thanks to the journeyman Heinicke.
History with Vikings
As a Viking, Heinicke was a fan-favorite. He was gritty and lovable – a seductive combination for both casual and serious football fans. His thumbprint was smudged on preseason football, culminating in a heroic performance versus the San Francisco 49ers before the regular season began in 2017. In the manner that preseason tryst materialized with walk-off heroics, it was a dazzling moment. Had it occurred inside a non-preseason game, Heinicke could have been immortalized.
But Heinicke was nothing more than a practice-squad type of a player at the time. The QB1 job indisputably belonged to incumbent Sam Bradford until he relinquished the job because of injury soon after. Another immortal figure – Case Keenum – was born.
Undrafted in 2015, Heinicke was usually the third-string quarterback on the Vikings depth chart during his Minnesota tenure. A Mike Zimmer-led offense rarely allows a QB3 to do anything, and Heinicke was no different. At the end of days with the Vikings, he was a folklore kind of dude – who Vikings enthusiasts swore up and down was unpolished jewelry.
Ex-Lover-like Fascination with Former QBs
And this sentiment is raw and real. Vikings fans feel this way about nearly every signal-caller that transverses the quarterback spot of the depth chart – and, in particular, the younger ones. Kyle Sloter, a practice squad protagonist, earned the same Robin Hood-like treatment from VikingsVille. To a degree, Teddy Bridgewater still commands this respect throughout his post-Vikings travels to the New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, and Carolina Panthers. Bridgewater has produced for those teams what he did with the Vikings – about 14 or 15 touchdowns per season and a cool, calm demeanor.
When Heinicke was authorized to start against Tampa Bay in the 2020 playoffs, well, Vikings faithful felt it preordained that he would thrive. And, he did just that.
Future for Heinicke in WAS?
Now for the futuristic, meaty stuff.
Is Heinicke the real deal or was his showing versus the Buccaneers a standalone Waterloo moment? That remains to be seen. Washington had a bizarre season. Key figures in the organization were embattled in a sexual harassment scandal that rocked the franchise. Owner Daniel Snyder responded by vowing to root out the culprits. After that, he realized his team’s mascot name was indeed a racial slur and temporarily switched it to “The Football Team.”
Then, Dwayne Haskins – once considered the savior at quarterback – bucked coronavirus protocol and frolicked at strip clubs. He was soon released just one year removed from the team using 15th-overall draft-pick capital on him. Backup quarterback Kyle Allen received the nod at quarterback before handing the job to the Lazarus of Football, Alex Smith (Allen was injured). All of this transpired inside a hunt for the NFC East title while holding a win-loss record of 2-7. And that’s after the head coach was diagnosed with cancer.
It was only natural that an unheard-of-by-most player like Heinicke would start in the playoffs.
Heinicke’s future is uncertain, but it reasonable to surmise that he will get a crack at the starting gig in Washington. Haskins is gone. Allen will probably back up someone elsewhere. Who knows on Smith. Perhaps the team will find a rookie signal-caller and let him compete with Heinicke. He deserves such an opportunity after the fortitude he channeled against Tom Brady.