As successful as Washington's first year with Ron Rivera was, the franchise is still stuck when it comes to quarterback. The new head coach was able to fix a lot of long-standing issues, yet that particular item remains bolded, underlined and bolded some more at the top of his to-do list.

Some believe the best way to address the situation is to, well, not really address it all that much. To them, a QB room consisting of a re-signed Taylor Heinicke, a healed Kyle Allen and — if he chooses to come back — a respected Alex Smith would be enough. 

After all, those three were all under center for one stretch or another in 2020, and the Burgundy and Gold found a way to make the playoffs with them. So why not roll with that combination again and use cap space and draft capital to fortify the roster everywhere else? 

It's not the worst argument, especially for those who are content with the Football Team merely being in the postseason conversation. However, as the sport's final four is proving once again, if Washington truly wants to contend soon, they'll need to take a big swing and land a more dynamic signal caller in the next few months.

Sure, the model of relying on a devastating defense — which Rivera basically has currently and should be able to develop even further with a couple of other additions — and hoping to get just enough from the offense can work, but only to a certain extent.


The Rams and the Saints, for example, employed that formula and made it to the Divisional Round. They were then quickly dismissed because Jared Goff and Drew Brees couldn't hold their own against Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady, respectively.

In the AFC, meanwhile, it should be Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes dueling it out for a trip to the Super Bowl, as long as Mahomes can recover from his concussion. They're the stars left standing, while the certainly capable but also more team-reliant options like Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers were all eliminated.

Now, claiming that the Packers, Bucs, Bills and Chiefs are in their conference title games strictly because of Rodgers, Brady, Allen and Mahomes would be silly. 

Tampa's defense, for instance, was superb in the Superdome and has been for much of the year, while Mahomes lines up each week with a legitimately absurd group of targets and a brilliant play caller. And without Chad Henne coming up clutch, Kansas City could very well be at home right now.

The point, though — and NBC Sports Washington sure as hell isn't the first outlet to report this — is that an elite passer is the pocket aces at the NFL's Hold 'Em table. 

Los Angeles went into Lambeau Field with Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey — call them suited kings — and Rodgers defeated them by two touchdowns. Cleveland and Baltimore's rushing attacks are usually the top hand when they enter a pot, but usually doesn't always hold up against other stud opponents. 

So, yes, Washington could opt to give Heinicke an opportunity to build off his breakout performance, see if Allen and Scott Turner can find a rhythm or bank on Smith's intangibles mattering more than his statistical output in Rivera's second campaign. Doing that would save them from shipping draft picks out in a trade and allow them to spend more in free agency at wide receiver, corner and linebacker.

Going that route can be profitable and keep them at the table for a bit. It already has once, and maybe next time they'll scoop up more chips and go deeper. 

But man, it sure would be nice to know that they have aces when it's time to flip over the cards, as opposed to simply hoping the person across from them doesn't. Acquiring those aces is time-consuming and resource-consuming, but the ones who are willing to do so typically find that the search was worth it. Washington ought to push forward in that search now.