Football Team

Scott Turner explains why he had Heinicke throw late vs. Giants

Football Team

From the outside, it sort of seems like being a kicker in the NFL is like being an offensive coordinator in the NFL, if only for this reason: When things are going well, the two positions don't much credit, but when there are issues, they get plenty of blame.

Scott Turner certainly related to the negative side of that equation thanks to what happened at the end of last Thursday's Washington-New York matchup, when he called for Taylor Heinicke to throw on second down with less than three minutes to go in the final quarter as the Burgundy and Gold were leading, 27-26.

Heinicke's attempt — sorry, by the way, if you had just gotten over the trauma of it all — wound up in the arms of James Bradberry, who was not the intended target. Because of the turnover, the Giants were able to retake the lead. Fortunately, Heinicke and the home side did end up winning.

Despite the end result of the contest, many questioned (and abhorred) the choice Turner made to air it out as opposed to continuing to run the ball with Antonio Gibson, who had gained 11 and three yards on his two carries before the turnover. It was definitely a risk and it definitely failed.

In his first press conference since the contest, Turner was asked to explain his thinking behind that particular sequence. To his credit, he didn't shy away from the inquiry — and, perhaps, his thoughts on the matter will make his detractors feel a bit better about him as a coach.

 

There's an emphasis on perhaps there, just so you know.

"I wasn't just going to run the ball and just give them back the ball," Turner said Wednesday, noting that New York had just spent their first timeout ahead of Heinicke's pick, meaning they had two more as well as the two-minute warning to go. "We want to win the game on offense. We’re always going to factor in all that, the clock, whatever. Where we are on the field, we were backed up, we had gotten the one first down and we're just trying to win the game on offense."

Turner's intentions of controlling the outcome instead of hoping everything would simply work out can be appreciated. A few days later, John Harbaugh of the Ravens was widely lauded for trusting Lamar Jackson to convert the clutchest of all fourth downs versus the Chiefs when Baltimore could've just as easily punted to Kansas City and crossed all fingers and toes for a defensive stop. The two scenarios, at their base levels, aren't all that different. 

In retrospect, however, Turner probably would've been better-served with running Gibson again, seeing how much yardage he piled up and then settling on whether to allow Heinicke to drop back. The quarterback had been dialed in up to that point, but then a poor read nearly ruined everything.

"It's a progression, he kind of skipped a step," Turner said of Heinicke. "It was just Taylor kind of forcing the ball where it shouldn't go, and they made a play.

"That was a tough couple of minutes waiting for that ball to come back to us.”

Because Jack Del Rio's defense was able to limit Daniel Jones' group to a field goal, Turner and Heinicke received another chance to cap the night off right, which is exactly what ensued. Still, when reviewing the entire chain of very chaotic events on Wednesday, the assistant maintained he would've done it the same way if presented with the circumstances once more.

"We're going to play aggressive, and I wouldn't change anything from the play call," Turner said.

Again, Turner's approach is admirable, and in today's forward-thinking league, it's one more leaders are following. Hopefully, though, he'll learn from his experience in Week 2 and actually set Washington up to win the next time he's faced with a similar opportunity.