It is a huge deal.
While Smith is 5-1 as Washington’s starting quarterback, it was visible that in Sunday night’s win over Philadelphia the veteran passer was pretty limited. He suffered a surgically repaired calf injury to his leg and against the Eagles, Smith seemed unable to escape a lot of pressure and lacked arm strength by being unable to plant his right foot.
Heinicke played well in relief for a quarterback against the Panthers in Week 16, but he’s barely six weeks out of the NFL.
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Rivera was clear he wasn’t sure what it would take to put Heinicke in Smith’s place, or to run his QBs, but the flow of the game will dictate the situation.
“I didn’t say I was going to do it, I said maybe we should think about it,” said the coach.
Don’t expect major game plan changes if there is a QB change.
“To have two separate game plans, you’re asking way too much of your team,” Rivera said.
Even with only a month in the organization, Heinicke knows the Washington system from his time spent with offensive coordinator Scott Turner in previous stops.
It’s possible that it was a bit of Rivera’s playing skill to keep Smith’s injury status a secret, but after watching him play against the Eagles, that seems unlikely.
Smith said he felt “good enough” to play against Philadelphia, but it seems pretty clear that Washington’s organization recognized well enough won’t be enough in the playoffs.
“We have to play the guy who gives us the best chance of winning,” Rivera said.