Ron Rivera will ‘think about’ a QB change if offensive struggles persist

Rivera will 'think about' QB change if offensive issues persist originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Taylor Heinicke will once again start at quarterback for the Commanders when they take the field in Week 16 against the 49ers, Ron Rivera confirmed Monday.

However, Rivera’s tone when discussing the position indicated that Heinicke’s grasp on the top job is now quite tenuous.

“[We are] sticking with Taylor and what we’re trying to establish,” Rivera initially answered when asked in a press conference about the possibility of benching Heinicke and inserting Carson Wentz.

But in his next breath, the coach admitted such a move could soon happen if Washington’s offense continues to flail when it comes to scoring.

“It is something, though, that obviously is talked about out there and it is something, to be quite frank, I do have to think about at some point,” he said. “But if we can get back on track and play the way that we’ve played and do things that we’ve done, then we’ll stick with where we are.”

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Rivera’s club fell to the Giants 20-12 in a nationally-televised game Sunday night that dramatically altered the franchise’s playoff fortunes. While Heinicke did connect with Jahan Dotson on a pretty touchdown as well as a 61-yard deep ball in that matchup, the signal-caller fumbled twice and oversaw a unit that once again faltered in the red zone.

According to Rivera, he and Heinicke engaged in a conversation following the loss where he emphasized to the passer that he must be better at capping off possessions with end zone trips as opposed to field goals or, even worse, turnovers. Rivera also apparently wanted to be direct with Heinicke as speculation about the 29-year-old’s starting status continues to grow.

“As long as I’m open with him and he understands where I’m coming from, I think we both get the messaging,” Rivera said.

During his time with the general media, Rivera explained how Heinicke can go about executing more efficiently down near the goal line.

“When your initials are taken away, you’ve got to quickly come back to the other side and when the space is condensed and it’s reduced, it’s one of those things that you’ve got to do it quickly and get through it quickly,” Rivera said. “A couple of times, he’s kind of waited a little bit to try and give the guy an opportunity to get to a window… We’ve got to keep that clock in his head going.”

Sunday was the first contest that Wentz has been active for since breaking his finger in a Week 6 victory over the Bears. Immediately afterward, Rivera flatly denied the notion that he considered making a halftime switch to Wentz.

“Going into the second half, scoring early, it would’ve been hard for me to make a change right there,” Rivera said in a later one-on-one interview with NBC Sports Washington’s JP Finlay. “Once we got that score, I felt like, ‘Here we go, here it comes.'” 

Yet Washington’s head man was less dismissive of such talk the day after, suggesting that Heinicke better come out strong in San Francisco versus a very talented defense or else potentially prepare for a trip down the depth chart. A return to the formula the club used with Heinicke during its midseason resurgence would undoubtedly do Heinicke and the overall operation some good. 

“I think we can run the football and we can run the football downhill and off of that, we can be a play-action team, a bootleg team, a physical, up-front team,” Rivera said. “It gives our offensive line an opportunity to fire out and not have to catch as much. We’ve seen that that has been successful and we have to continue on that kind of mentality.”

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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