Taylor Heinicke hopes he is the answer to the Washington Football Team’s quarterback problems this season … and for many seasons to come.
Washington started the 2021 season with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, but Fitzpatrick hurt his hip in the first game. It’s uncertain when Fitzpatrick will be able to play. Heinicke stepped in and played well, especially in the WFT’s 30-29 win over the New York Giants.
Heinicke is not the kind of first-round draft pick, “can’t miss” quarterback some teams have. Although he threw for 132 touchdowns and ran for 22 more during his four seasons (2011 to 2014) at Old Dominion University, no National Football League (NFL) team drafted him in 2015.
Since then, Heinicke has moved around the NFL, hardly ever getting a chance to play. He didn’t play at all last fall.
Now, at 28 years old, Heinicke is getting his chance. I wonder: How many quarterbacks such as Heinicke, who were not drafted and did not become starters until later, became good NFL quarterbacks? More than you might think.
Kids may know Tony Romo as a TV football analyst for NFL games. Before Romo worked in sports media, he was a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys from 2004 to 2016.
Similar to Heinicke, Romo was undrafted from Eastern Illinois University and got a chance to be the Cowboys regular quarterback at age 26. Romo took advantage of his opportunity. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times.
There are more. Jeff Garcia did not break into the NFL until he was 29. Instead Garcia played for the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League (CFL). Still, he had an 11-year NFL career (1999 to 2009) and was named to the Pro Bowl four times.
Probably the two biggest success stories among undrafted NFL quarterbacks were Kurt Warner and Warren Moon.
Warner (1998 to 2009) was not drafted out of Northern Iowa University and got cut from his first NFL team. He worked in a grocery store and played in minor football leagues. When Warner got his chance to play in the NFL at age 28, he led the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl championship. Warner was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
Moon (1984 to 2000) is another Hall of Famer. No NFL team drafted Moon in 1978, so he went to Canada to play in the CFL. When he finally got the chance to play in the NFL, Moon became a nine-time Pro Bowl selection.
It’s good for kids to remember sometimes coaches, even NFL coaches, make mistakes. They draft or cut the wrong players and overlook players who turn out to be very good.
I bet WFT Coach Ron Rivera hopes the league was wrong about undrafted Taylor Heinicke and he turns out to be another Tony Romo, Kurt Warner or Warren Moon.
– – –
Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 26 kids sports books, including “Gridiron: Stories From 100 Years of the National Football League.”
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