Ron Rivera revealed that Washington will have to consider rotating quarterbacks Alex Smith and Taylor Heinicke in Saturday’s Wild Card game against Tampa Bay.
This is a huge deal.
While Smith is 5-1 as Washington’s starting QB it was visible that in Sunday night’s win over Philadelphia that the veteran passer was quite limited. He’s been dealing with a calf injury in his surgically repaired leg, and against the Eagles, Smith seemed unable to escape much pressure and lacked some arm strength by being unable to plant his right foot.
Heinicke played well in relief for a quarter against the Panthers in Week 16, but he’s just about six weeks removed from being out of the NFL.
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Rivera was clear he’s not sure what it will require to put Heinicke in for Smith, or to rotate his QBs, but the flow of the game will dictate the situation.
“I didn’t say I was going to do it, I said it’s something we maybe need to think about,” the coach said.
Don’t expect significant changes to the game plan if there is a QB change though.
“To have two separate game plans you’re asking for way too much from your team,” Rivera said.
Even with just a month in the organization, Heinicke knows the Washington system from his time spent with offensive coordinator Scott Turner in previous stops.
It’s possible this is some gamesmanship from Rivera to keep Smith’s injury status under wraps, but after watching him play against the Eagles, that seems unlikely.
Smith said he felt “good enough” to play against Philadelphia, but it seems fairly clear that the Washington organization recognized good enough won’t be enough in the playoffs.
"We have to play the guy that gives us the best chance to win," Rivera said.