Washington coach Ron Rivera replaced Taylor Heineke with Carson Wentz in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to San Francisco, but Rivera said he’s not yet sure if it’s a permanent move. Rivera said he will name the quarterback at the start of the week.
Wentz played the last two sets for Washington in a 37-20 defeat that dropped the leaders to 7-7-1. They remain in seventh and final place.
Rivera said he would assess the situation, talk to his attacking coaches, and then make a decision. Washington hosts Cleveland (6-9) Sunday.
Offensive coordinator Scott Turner said he wouldn’t make a “quick decision” but used the fourth quarter as an opportunity to assess Wentz’s game. Rivera also said he did not want the 49ers to see a “tee” on Heinicke.
“It was an opportunity for us to find out where Carson was and he did a good job,” Rivera told reporters after the game. “We are in a good position now.”
Wentz last played on October 13 when he broke his right ring finger in a 12-7 win over the Chicago Bears. He returned to the active matchday roster last week and was close to coming into the game in the second half.
Wentz completed 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in two series of action.
“We’re all competitors. I’m not going to color it, we all want to be out there,” Wentz said. “If we lose that in this situation, we’ll get out of it real quick. So it would mean a lot [to start] But this is out of our control. We will prepare and work our tails off and nothing will change because of the circumstances. Whatever happens will happen.”
Heinicke said he used to be in that position, always an underdog or on the brink of losing his job, especially in the NFL.
“I’ve heard things like that my whole life,” Heinicke said. “I try not to pay attention to that. I control what I control, which is what goes out and plays as hard as I can, and that’s how I feel. If they need to put Carson in there, fine. I’ll come to the facility every day, work hard and be the best I can be.”
Heinicke played one of the season’s more efficient halves in the first two quarters, completing eight of 11 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown. Another drive ended at the 1-yard line when Washington failed a fourth-and-goal conversion. He threw a second touchdown pass in the third quarter.
But, in the fourth quarter, Heinicke lost a deep fumble at his own 11-yard line, which set up a 49ers field goal. On their next possession, it was intercepted – this time at the Captain’s 25-yard line, which led to a second field goal and a 27-14 deficit.
“I was pretty freaked out and the last two drives were flips, so I got it,” Heinicke said. Carson did a good job.
Rivera said Henke played “well” in the first half and also said that “pinning all the shifts on him is going to be tough. Those weren’t his problems. There were a few things we could have done better.”
However, this was enough for Rivera to make the change to Wentz. Washington’s offense had moved the ball during Heineke’s starts – the Leaders were 13th in total yards over his first seven starts. However, they finished 25th in the red and scored a 27th-place finish in third.
Rivera was pleased with the way Wentz played.
“He had good control over what we were doing, he stood tall in the pocket and got the ball out quick a few times and threw some good balls,” Rivera said.
Washington traded two third-round draft picks with Indianapolis and traded two second-round draft picks last April to acquire Wentz. His salary cap is $26.7 million in 2023, but he has no guaranteed money left, so Washington can cut it without any financial penalty. But the leaders want to know whether or not he can be their man in the future.
If Wentz starts, he’ll play a harder offense than when he played in the first six games. Coaches hope this will lead to more success for Wentz.
“Our ability to run the ball causes a lot of pressure from the quarterback,” Rivera said. “This is a different unit than the group he’s played with. There are some things that show what he can do when he has the chance to stand tall in the pocket.”
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