Washington’s revolving door at quarterback takes yet another spin.
Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera confirmed Monday that Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose debut in Burgundy and Gold lasted less than two quarters and included only six passes, is headed to injured reserve with a hip subluxation that will sideline him for multiple weeks. This will kick start the Taylor Heinicke Project — for better or worse.
So with the need for a third quarterback, Rivera’s certainly going to kick the tires on his first draft pick as a head coach, right? Cam Newton is undoubtedly on a flight to Dulles to join his old coach in Ashburn, isn’t he?
Apparently not. Kyle Shurmur? This needs to be on ESPN’s next “C’mon Man” segment.
Backup QB Kyle Allen is one play away from a return to the starting lineup — which would be Washington’s fourth straight season starting at least three different QBs in a season. This almost feels likely because Heinicke, though an instant fan favorite for his unexpectedly good playoff performance against the eventual-Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has yet to start and finish a regular season game for the Burgundy and Gold, let alone actually win one.
The Washington Football Team hasn’t had a QB start a full season since Kirk Cousins in 2017.
Since then, it’s had nine different starters (including the playoffs), none of whom started more than 10 consecutive games in a season. pic.twitter.com/D6oQmLxn8Z
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) September 12, 2021
Rivera insists he’s happy with the quarterbacks he has, but I’m not sure why he thinks any of them is better than Newton, a former NFL MVP and Super Bowl starter. Cam doesn’t require Washington to part with draft picks or pony up for a gaudy contract. He’s just a cheap, available three-time Pro Bowler with direct experience playing for Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner.
Though my stumping for Cam has become a bit of a tongue-in-cheek gag on the DC Sports Huddle, I seriously believe he represents an upgrade over what Washington currently has (as I’ve been saying in this space for a year). There’s far too many people ready to call Cam washed up even though he’s only 32 years old in a league that’s made the game so cushy for quarterbacks that they last into their 40s. It’s not a stretch to believe he can hold down the QB1 spot in Washington for the next five or more years — plenty long enough for Rivera to find his QB of the future.
Yes, injuries led to Newton’s release in Carolina but there’s evidence to suggest he’s on the cusp of a return to form — maybe even better than he was before his shoulder and foot failed him. Hell, there’s even a case that he could be the second coming of John Elway in the right situation. Considering Newton’s season-plus in Turner’s offense yielded numbers comparable to his 2015 MVP performance, Washington is the best — and perhaps only — chance for that scenario to play out.
Newton is on the street right now because of politics, not because he can’t play anymore. New England is all in on first round pick Mac Jones and Bill Belichick decided a career backup like Brian Hoyer serving as the second-string QB is less a threat to Jones’ development than having a former MVP over his shoulder.
Newton’s preseason reps were largely against other teams’ starting lineup and he completed 14 of 21 passes for 162 yards, a touchdown and an interception in three games — one of which was a near-perfect performance against the Eagles. Dude can still play.
And, frankly, Cam’s absence from an NFL roster is yet another example of the plight of the Black quarterback in the NFL. Those who don’t reach stardom at the level of Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson or Cam in his prime are generally not on a roster at all. Look around the NFL and, aside from rookie backups drafted to be the QB of the future, there’s only three Black veteran backups: Jacoby Brissett in Miami, Geno Smith in Seattle and P.J. Walker in Carolina.
He doesn’t get the benefit of becoming a reliable placeholder/backup like Alex Smith — a fellow former No. 1 overall pick who didn’t accomplish nearly as much as Newton did.
Don’t talk to me about his hair or his clothes. Top pick Trevor Lawrence has long hair. Fitzpatrick and his trademark beard have as much swagger and flair as Cam, and people seem enamored with him even though he’s on his ninth team in 17 years. Ask yourself if Newton would last that long if he caused the kind of distraction Aaron Rodgers (who also has long hair, by the way) has in Green Bay the last few months — and then played the way Rodgers did in Week 1.
I’m not saying Newton will be elite or that he comes without risk. Cam’s last Funky Friday entry did him no favors for a variety of reasons and his vaccination status all but ensures he won’t be on an NFL roster in 2021. That’s certainly worrisome, but if anyone can navigate that big personality and/or talk Cam into getting the vaccine, it’s his first NFL coach, Riverboat Ron.
It’s clear that Rivera doesn’t want to try. Maybe there’s a behind-the-scenes issue between Newton and Rivera that never went public. Perhaps the veteran coach wants to show he can win without his former franchise quarterback.
Whatever the reason, if/when Washington inserts a third quarterback into a lineup many believe to be playoff-worthy, consider whether that option is better than a former MVP with a confluence of factors that make him perfect for D.C.
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