Ron Rivera remains ‘comfortable’ with Taylor Heinicke as his starting QB

Rivera remains 'comfortable' with Heinicke as his starting QB originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Ron Rivera isn’t presently feeling any temptation to make a switch at quarterback by removing Taylor Heinicke from the lineup and inserting Carson Wentz, he explained to reporters on Monday.

“I feel comfortable with Taylor,” Rivera said in a Zoom press conference. “When Carson’s activated, he’ll be the primary backup and we’ll go from there.”

Wentz was designated to return from injured reserve on Nov. 23, which opened up a 21-day window for him to be activated to the active roster. Though that hasn’t occurred yet, the team still has more than a week left on that countdown to make it happen and Rivera has yet to indicate any worry that it won’t eventually happen.

However, the coach is content with entrusting Heinicke to lead the offense despite the club being on bye and there being a theoretical opportunity to slot Wentz back into the top job thanks to that break. 

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“Not necessarily,” Rivera answered when asked about wondering how Wentz could spark the unit, which has put up 16, 19 and 20 points on its own across its last three outings.

“I think this is who we are. This is how we play. We’re running the ball right now well, we’re controlling the time of possession, we’re keeping our defense fresh. There’s some things, obviously, that could help but, I think right now, for where we are and who we are, I think we’re in a good spot. I really do.”

Heinicke’s performance in Washington’s most recent contest, a tie on Sunday versus the Giants, was another one where he had both brilliant stretches and extended slumps.

His late-in-the-fourth-quarter heroics to even the matchup at 20 were breathtaking, but he also missed Logan Thomas early on what should’ve been a touchdown and sprinkled in the usual “How was that not intercepted!?” throws he’s become known for.

Rivera, though, was quite complimentary of the signal-caller’s effort at MetLife Stadium.

“I’ll tell you right now: I thought he had a lot more quality quarters than just the end of the game,” Rivera said.

“I’ve got to be honest,” he added later. “I was pleased with what he did.”

Heinicke was sacked by New York five times in Week 13, and avoiding such scenarios is supposed to be one of his strengths/one of the reasons why he is a better choice as the Commanders‘ starter than Wentz is. But Rivera acknowledged that those takedowns and some of the other offensive struggles “wasn’t just Taylor.”

“You take the good with the bad, but I think that’s true with a lot of quarterbacks,” Rivera said. I don’t think there’s a whole bunch of guys that are out there that aren’t making a mistake every now and then.”

Washington’s head man did not officially rule out the possibility that Wentz, who broke his finger in Week 6’s win at Chicago, could receive another chance in the huddle down the line. The franchise has four more clashes on its regular-season schedule, beginning with a Sunday night showdown with the Giants on Dec. 18

Following the tie, Rivera repeatedly lamented the “missed opportunities” by his group, prompting the questions on Monday about how he views Heinicke and Wentz. While Heinicke has been involved in the Commanders’ sudden turnaround, Wentz’s bigger arm and (again, theoretical) potential to be a bit more prolific should officially be available soon.

To close out his thoughts on the matter, Rivera expressed confidence that the offense can succeed if it were to find itself in a situation where it must air it out more than its ground-based identity calls for.

“I do know, obviously, if we’re playing a high-powered offense and they score early, you’ve got to be able to match it and that’s one of the things we’ve got to be able to do, and I think we can,” he said. “I think we have enough of the playmakers that if we get the balls in their hands, they can make plays.”

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