The Washington Chiefs are back to quarterback Carson Wentz for the playoffs.
Wentz will start in place of Taylor Heinecke when the Chiefs (7-7-1) host the Cleveland Browns (6-9) on Sunday, the team announced Wednesday.
Wentz started the first six games this season before breaking his right ring finger in October. He had 13 wins against the Chicago Bears. He was placed on injured reserve and did not return to the active roster until December. 17. Hennicki started 9 games and went 5-3-1.
However, Washington is 0-2-1 in its last three games. Despite moving the ball well with Heinecke, the Commanders rank 26th in red zone offense and 20th in passing offense over eight starts.
Wentz replaced Heinecke in the fourth quarter of a 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Wentz completed 12 of 16 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.
“I thought Carson came in and he wasn’t playing long and he was a little rusty at first and then he started to scratch,” coach Ron Rivera said of Wentz’s performance Tuesday. “He showed that he made quick decisions, and that was good to see. There are still some things he can work on.”
Heinecke provided spark with his movement and clutch throws and drives late in games. Those traits led to wins over the Green Bay Packers and Indianapolis Colts, and a tie with the New York Giants. Hennicki has thrown 12 touchdowns to six interceptions while being sacked 19 times in nine starts.
But with the Chiefs struggling to finish late and trusting Wentz’s familiarity with the offense will lead to quick decisions, Washington opted for this move.
The Chiefs loved Wentz’s arm strength and what he could do for the offense. His two drives over San Francisco showed them what they wanted to see.
“What he showed is that he’s completely healthy, he’s got fresh legs now and he’s got a live arm,” Rivera said Tuesday. “He made very quick decisions. He showed us that quickness that you want from a quarterback, and his decision-making seemed to be right.”
Washington traded two third-round picks — one in 2022 and another in 2023 — and traded second-round picks in April to take Wentz away from Indianapolis. He entered the season as the clear-cut starter, even Heinecke acknowledged in his spring news conference.
Wentz, no. In the 2016 general election, he had to learn a new offense for the first time in his career. He played in the same system during his first five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and last season with the Colts.
In the first two starts, Washington scored a combined 55 points. But over the next four seasons, the Commanders threw just 47 touchdowns, 11 touchdowns to six interceptions, and were sacked 23 times.
Wentz’s contract includes two more years but no more guaranteed money. If Washington chooses to keep him, he can restructure his deal or pay him $26.7 million in 2023. Heinecke is a free agent after the season.
Heinecke became a fan favorite as the fourth quarterback after arriving in Washington in December 2020. Before that, he was living with his sister and taking classes to finish his degree at Old Dominion.
Starting with the team’s playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that season, he won over his teammates with his impressive style of play and pylon-diving touchdown runs.
Washington signed Heinecke to a two-year extension that season. He started 15 games in 2021 after Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a season-ending hip injury in Week 1 and went 7-8.
The Chiefs have a 12-11-1 record over the past two years under Heinecke. They are 2-6 below anyone else.