Ex-Vikings QB Returns in Washington. But With a Catch.

Ex-Vikings QB Returns in Washington. But With a Catch.
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Washington Commanders were eliminated from postseason contention last weekend after the Green Bay Packers gutted the Minnesota Vikings. Carson Wentz was reinstated at QB1 against the Cleveland Browns, the Commanders lost accordingly, and Green Bay took care of the rest.

Before the throwback to Wentz, former Vikings quarterback Taylor Heinicke was in charge of the Commanders, guiding Washington to a 5-3-1 record on his watch. But Commanders head coach Ron Rivera insisted he was searching for a spark and curiously believed Wentz could be just that.

Wentz was not.

Ex-Vikings QB Returns in Washington. But With a Catch.

Alas, here we are entering Week 18, and the Commanders have a mini-quarterback controversy, which is all too familiar since Kirk Cousins left the franchise in 2018. Closing the door on Wentz, the Commanders will opt for a return to Heinicke — with a side dish of rookie Sam Howell.

The Athletic reported Wednesday, “The Commanders are expected to start QB Taylor Heinicke for the team’s regular-season finale against the Cowboys. Rookie Sam Howell is also expected to play.”***

Returns in Washington
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Predictably, the announcement was chided by some Commanders loyalists as Washington has seen plenty of the scrappy Heinicke. They know what he is — and what he is not. Week 18 in a meaningless game should be a forum to get a whole tablespoon of the rookie Howell.

But no cigar, as the Commanders franchise is no stranger to weird dealings.

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And, not for nothing, Howell appeared to receive first-team snaps at Commanders practice Wednesday.

On Heinicke, the Vikings discovered the quarterback in 2015 as an undrafted free agent. He later won the QB3 job behind Teddy Bridgewater and Shaun Hill, staying with the Vikings until September 2017. After his Vikings adventure, Heinicke landed with the Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, and Commanders. He also had a pit stop in the XFL in 2020 with the St. Louis BattleHawks.

Known for his grit and likeability, Heinicke won over oodles of Commanders fans with the team’s winning record. But in the grand scheme of the NFL, Heinicke’s individual performance is somewhat dreadful, ranking near the bottom of the NFL per quarterback efficiency. The numbers suggest Heinicke is about as efficient as Davis Mills and Matt Ryan in 2022 — not good comps.

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With Heinicke and Howell — in whatever order is decided by Ron Rivera — the Commanders face the Dallas Cowboys in Landover this weekend. Cowboys bossman Jerry Jones has hinted that Dallas will not rest starters, so Howell, especially, will receive trial by fire during his first NFL experience.

The Vikings take on the Bears in Chicago and have also announced they plan to play staters.

The Commanders lost to the Vikings in Week 9, and Heinicke was at the helm for Washington.

*** Editor’s Update: According to Tom Pelissero, Sam Howell is expected to get the start.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).

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