Ron Rivera Needs to Repeat History and End a Heartwarming Story if He Has Any Hopes of Winning a Super Bowl in Washington

Article Highlights:

  • Ron Rivera needs to end the Taylor Heinicke experiment and hope the team can draft Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral in 2022
  • Corral is a presumptive first-round pick and could go as high as No. 1 overall
  • Rivera thrived with another former SEC quarterback, Cam Newton, on the Carolina Panthers

What had the potential to be a special season for Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team instead appears to be one destined to end with a losing record.

Washington has lost four straight games since its 2-2 start and is apace to have an extremely early selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. Although the reigning NFC East champions have several issues to address, especially in the secondary, it’s quite clear which direction the team needs to take next spring.

Ron Rivera needs to end the Taylor Heinicke experiment and try drafting Ole Miss’ Matt Corral in 2022

We’re not going to discredit Taylor Heinicke’s incredible story from graduate student to starting an NFL playoff game in a matter of weeks. He’s certainly done his best for Washington this year and completed 63.9% of his passes for 1,928 yards, 11 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in eight games and seven starts.

The Old Dominion product is on pace to end the 2021 season with 4,097 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Winning teams can accept those numbers from a franchise quarterback. Washington is not a winning team, and Heinicke, to this point, has not lived up to the idea that he can be Washington’s franchise quarterback.

Once again, Washington needs to start preparing to find a new starting quarterback next spring. Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson could potentially be available via trade, but there are too many questions regarding either’s long-term status for the franchise to take a chance.

If Washington is going to try acquiring a legitimate long-term option, they need to hope Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is available. Washington would pick sixth overall if the 2022 NFL Draft occurred tomorrow and at least two teams ahead of them, the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 4 overall) and New York Giants (No. 5), are not currently expected to select a quarterback that early if at all.

Corral completed 66% of his passes in the Rebels’ first eight games this season for 2,202 yards, 15 touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also ran for 419 yards and another 10 touchdowns. The fourth-year junior is mobile, possesses an impressive arm, and has been battle-tested in the SEC, all of which will appeal to NFL teams next spring.

That last point, with respect to the likes of Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, should have Rivera especially intrigued.

Rivera watched another former SEC quarterback, Cam Newton, thrive under his watch

At first glance, it’s probably not the best idea to compare Matt Corral, who is 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, to 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton, and not just because the latter clocks in at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds. 

Such an idea looks even worse upon realizing NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah compared Corral to New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson and Las Vegas Raiders veteran Derek Carr earlier this year. Jeremiah cited Corral’s creativity and playmaking ability upon drawing the resemblance.

In terms of abilities and skills, those comparisons definitely make sense. But don’t forget that Corral, unlike Wilson and Carr, has plenty of SEC experience, just as Newton once did. The three-time Pro Bowler began his career at the University of Florida and later won a national title as Auburn’s starting quarterback in 2010.

When the Panthers drafted Newton in 2011, the organization partnered him with a first-year head coach in Rivera. The defensive mastermind immediately unleashed his rookie quarterback as a dual-threat option, one who threw for 4,051 yards and 21 touchdowns as a rookie. He also rushed for 706 yards and 14 touchdowns on an impressive 5.6 yards per carry.

Things only improved from there. Newton went 68-55-1 in nine seasons with the Panthers and led them to four playoff appearances, including a Super Bowl 50 loss, during a five-year span from 2013-17.

Rivera, especially not at this stage in his career, isn’t one to take things slowly with a quarterback. If he’s Washington’s head coach in 2022 and Corral is starting under center, don’t be surprised to see history repeat.

Heinicke might be best suited as a capable backup option in the future

As dangerous as assuming is, let’s operate under the idea that Heinicke will not be Washington’s starting quarterback in 2022. He’s under contract through the end of next season and could conceivably enter the year as a backup.

There’d be no shame in Heinicke, who is a competent quarterback without a history of off-field issues, potentially spending the next few years as a journeyman backup. There are few positions in sports, especially if one holds that role behind a durable quarterback, which are as rewarding. Just ask Chase Daniel, the Los Angeles Chargers’ backup who has earned nearly $39 million despite making five career starts in 12 seasons.

It’s also possible a quarterback-needy team acquires Heinicke via trade next spring. For all of the Kurt Warner comparisons Heinicke has earned over the last year, don’t forget the Super Bowl 34 champion entered the 2008 season in a quarterback battle with Matt Leinart. Warner won the job and nearly won Super Bowl 43 in the process.

As long as Heinicke gets his $1.5 million base salary and $750,000 bonus, something tells us he certainly won’t be complaining about whatever his circumstances are in 2022.

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