Some teams peak early and some teams never peak at all, but there is something to this Taylor Heinicke led Washington Football Team.
It is not the fact that Washington won the game Thursday night against the New York Giants, it is how they won the game is what I pay attention to.
Anyone who has watched Washington throughout the years, knows that games like the game Thursday night typically never go Washington’s way. The ball generally takes the wrong bounce at the wrong time and if there is a game winning kick to be had, it is generally made by the other team.
I was at the last Super Bowl against Buffalo in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After witnessing the greatest years in franchise history during the years I was growing up back in the 80’s, my Grandma had gotten me a ticket to that Super Bowl for my high school graduation present in 1992. Little did I know, sitting there in the corner of the Buffalo end zone cheering like wild for my team, that was the end of their decade-long dominance. Head Coach Joe Gibbs resigned shortly thereafter and the team’s fortunes went south.
There were a couple good seasons and moments here and there over the next 27 seasons, but not too many. Most of the years seemed to hover around 6-10, 7-9 or maybe 9-7, but it was nothing like those glory years in the 80’s and early 90’s.
I can not tell you how many times I have gotten my hopes up throughout the years and do not get me started about RGIII. After personally watching Super Bowl’s XVII, XXII and XXVI, nothing again came close and nothing was ever the same again. It has always been hard if not impossible to shake that bad feeling me within me that said Washington was going to find a way to lose. Watching games slip away became a new way of life.
It got to the point I even said the only thing that made the Redskins the Redskins anymore where the logos on their helmets. The team just did remotely resemble the chemistry and sense of family the burgundy and gold used to have, until a game last November against the Carolina Panthers.
My wife Samantha and I were sitting in a sports bar in Key West and I looked up at the television screen and I remember thinking, “Who is this guy?” There has been a change at quarterback and #4 was in the game. I had to look on my phone to figure out who it even was. “Taylor Heinicke,” is what showed up on Google.
He was heaving the ball deep and even completing them! I was like wow…
Then came the post-season game against the Bucs and Alex Smith was supposed to start, but instead it was Heinicke and his effort brought tears to my eyes for the first time in a very long time. That run he made – – was the best run I had seen in Washington since I was eight years old when John Riggins ran on 4th and 1 back in Super Bowl XVII.
I knew at that moment he was the one Washington had been waiting for. First round and high profile free agent quarterbacks do not fit the personality of the team – – Jorgensen, Kilmer, Theismann, Schroeder, Williams and Rypien, they were all misfits or castoffs.
Washington had signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, but I knew he was not it and the stars quickly realigned and Heinicke was the guy again. The Giants game told me everything I needed to know.
34/46, 336 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT.
The way he bounced back and led Washington down the field to set up the game-winning kick after the interception he threw told me even more. When they showed him on the sideline, it looked like he had tears in his eyes after he threw what appeared to be the interception that cost his team the game.
I grew up watching Washington lose about every night game against Lawrence Taylor and the New York Giants. They found a way to win this one and more importantly fate showed it was once again finally back on the side of the burgundy and gold.
The pure passion and excitement that was written all over Heinicke watching the ball sail through the uprights told me something too. I once again saw the heart of a champion.
All of it told me this is Washington’s year.
Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK.