Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick will enter training camp as the starting quarterback of the Washington Football Team. But after that, nothing is guaranteed.
On Thursday, the final day of Washington's mandatory minicamp, head coach Ron Rivera told local reporters that he's looking forward to seeing Taylor Heinicke push Fitzpatrick when the team begins camp in late July.
"I just feel that going into this knowing we have a proven guy [Fitzpatrick] that has the ability to lead us, but again, we have a guy in Taylor that shows us he can do it," Rivera said. "They are going to compete, they are going to push, and I'm looking forward to it."
While Fitzpatrick will begin as the starter, Rivera said it would be a "competition" and that the veteran will have to win the job still; it won't be just handed to him.
"It's going to push our football team and make our football team better," Rivera said.
Besides Fitzpatrick and Heinicke, Washington also has Kyle Allen in the mix, who started four games for the club in 2020 before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Allen had participated during minicamp and the hope is that he is 100 percent healthy by the beginning of camp. If so, he'll also get the chance to compete, too.
Last year, in the pandemic-altered offseason that got rid of all spring football activities, Rivera chose to give then-second-year QB Dwayne Haskins all the first-team reps in training camp, rather than having him compete for the job with Allen.
The decision backfired, as Haskins struggled over the first quarter of the season before he was benched for Allen ahead of Week 5. Haskins would only start one more game for Washington before multiple off-the-field choices led to his release in December.
Rivera has repeatedly said not having a quarterback competition last summer was a mistake, which is why he plans to have one this year despite having a clear favorite in Fitzpatrick.
"The mistake I made was that my approach was wrong. I should have made as big a competition as possible, and that's on me. I wanted to try and find a guy. I thought [Haskins] was ready to take a step and take every opportunity," Rivera said.
"I try to build that rapport he needed with his teammates, and that would have been something we may have been able to see sooner and could have done something different, perhaps."
During training camp, Rivera said the plan is for the team to mix up which quarterback gets certain reps to have all of the signal-callers work with a variety of players.
As the head coach pointed out, the last thing he wants is to have his backup quarterback enter a regular-season game with no experience working with the starting unit.
"You try to create situations that are going to be as gamelike as possible," Rivera said. "You want to be able to rotate guys so that everybody gets an opportunity to work with the same group of players. You try to create that energy for guys stepping on the field knowing that they are working with the [starters]. That's one of the things we've done in the past that shows how you find out about players."
In Fitzpatrick, Heinicke and Allen, Rivera feels that he has three quarterbacks he can win with. The same couldn't be said last year. That's why regardless of how it plays out, Rivera is excited to see each QB push one another to get better in camp.
"It's going to be a good competition. I look forward to it," Rivera said.