Two months ago, quarterback Taylor Heinicke was a student at Old Dominion University. Most of the reasoning behind the Washington Football Team signing him in early December was that he knew Scott Turner's offensive system and could serve as the "quarantine quarterback" in a pinch. Not only did that time arrive before the team's Wild Card matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he performed better than almost every player during the first round of the playoffs.
After nearly leading Washington to an upset victory over the Buccaneers, Heinicke was the NFL's second highest-graded offensive player, according to Pro Football Focus, with a 92.0 overall grade. Indianapolis Colts tight end Jack Doyle, who finished his nail-biter of a game against the Bills with seven receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown, was the only offensive player to finish ahead of him.
Heinicke delivered one of the most memorable performances of the year from a Washington quarterback by completing 26 of his 44 passes for 306 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also led the team in rushing with six carries for 46 yards and a diving eight-yard touchdown that pulled Washington within two points in the third quarter. His 92.0 overall grade was the highest for a Washington signal-caller in nearly 14 years.
Heinicke's accolades do not stop there, though; not only did Heinicke make that list, but he also was the top-graded quarterback of the weekend, beating out Tampa Bay's Tom Brady, Cleveland's Baker Mayfield and Buffalo's Josh Allen.
Head coach Ron Rivera called Heinicke's performance "gutsy" after the game, and he garnered praise from his teammates for being "a true pro." Washington has questions at quarterback heading into the offseason, but it seems like Rivera believes Heinicke has earned the right to be a part of that conversation.
"As I said, the young man has earned an opportunity," Rivera said. "That's the best part about this is we're going to create some competition around here. Guys are going to compete, and that's how you're going to get better."