The Fitzmagic Is Gone: Washington Football Team Loses Starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick but Are Better off With Taylor Heinicke
Nine NFL teams have started Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback. These nine NFL teams have won some games, had some good times, and enjoyed the full Fitzmagic experience. The problem is, none of these nine teams — the St. Louis Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, and Washington Football Team — have made the playoffs with Fitzpatrick.
Now, with the best chance of his career to finally visit the promised land of the postseason, Fitzpatrick is out with a hip injury for what looks to be a significant period of time. While this injury is a tough break for the likable Fitzpatrick, his replacement, Taylor Heinicke, may be the best thing for the Washington Football Team moving forward.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is out for at least several weeks
Unheralded and undrafted out of Harvard, Ryan Fitzpatrick has become an NFL mainstay over the course of the last 17 seasons.
After starting 15 games in four seasons with the Rams and Bengals, Fitzpatrick truly caught on as a starter with the Bills. During the longest tenure of his career, the Arizona native threw for 11,654 yards, 80 touchdowns, and 64 interceptions in four seasons.
His legend grew during his time with the Titans, Texans, Jets, Bucs, and Dolphins. Fitzpatrick’s penchant for last-minute heroics and drive-crushing interceptions in equal amounts only added to his appeal.
Hooking up with the WFT for the 2021 season, Fitzpatrick seemed to have finally found his best chance to make his playoff debut with the defending NFC East champs. That dream seemed to come crashing down in the second quarter of WFT’s Week 1 matchup against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Fitzpatrick left the game with a leg injury and, after an MRI on Monday, doctors diagnosed the QB with a right hip subluxation, per ESPN. The team placed him on IR, putting him out for at least three weeks. There isn’t an official timeline for his recovery, although Adam Schefter reports that sources say the signal-caller will miss six to eight weeks.
That means that Taylor Heinicke is the new starter for Washington.
Taylor Heinicke is the new WFT starting QB
After Fitzpatrick’s injury, fourth-year NFL (and one-year XFL) QB Taylor Heinicke came on in relief. Heinicke came in down 10-6 to the Chargers. He led the team to a field goal drive in the first half and on a touchdown in the third quarter. The former Old Dominion star finished the game 11-of-15 for 122 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
This outing comes after last season when, thrust into duty at the end of a tumultuous season, Heinicke put in a very respectable performance in the playoffs against the soon-to-be Super Bowl champion Buccaneers.
In the offseason, the team brought in Fitzpatrick. The franchise wanted a solid veteran presence to guide the squad that is otherwise a playoff-caliber team outside of the quarterback position. While that’s an understandable notion, at 38, Fitzpatrick is not the future of any club.
Now, with Heinicke at the helm, the WFT has a young QB with talent that may solidify the position for the long term. With a promising young core that includes burgeoning stars such as Chase Young, Terry McLaurin, Antonio Gibson, and Logan Thomas, developing Heinicke is the best way forward for the much-maligned organization.
The NFC East will be harder to win this season
The only reason the Washington Football Team made the playoffs last season with their underwhelming 7-9 record is because, by rule, a team from the NFC “Least” had to.
It won’t be that easy this season, no matter who is under center for the NFL team without a nickname.
Without overreacting to Week 1, it does seem like at least two of the WFT’s East opponents will be better in 2021. While the New York Giants seem stuck in football purgatory, the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles both impressed in their opener.
It’s no surprise that Dallas looked more impressive than last season. The simple fact that their franchise QB Dak Prescott is back from a gruesome ankle injury makes the franchise a threat to win the division in 2021.
The slightly bigger surprise was the Philadelphia Eagles. Second-year QB Jalen Hurts looked dangerous in a 32-6 blowout of the Atlanta Falcons. While Atlanta may be an NFL bottom-feeder this season, the fact that Philly may have found its QB of the future could put them in contention for the division as well.
It won’t be easy to repeat for the WFT this year but, with Taylor Heinicke leading the charge, the organization will at least find out what they need to do for the future of the QB position, which will be better for their talented young core in the long run.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference