Carson Wentz named Commanders starting quarterback vs. Browns originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera officially named Wentz the club's QB1 on Wednesday, just four days after Wentz came on in relief of Taylor Heinicke in Washington's Week 16 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
Following Saturday's game, Rivera declined to name a starting quarterback moving forward but said his decision would come early in the week. Heinicke will back up Wentz in the same role he had to begin the 2022 campaign.
Wentz started Washington's first six games of the season -- the Commanders went 2-4 in those contests -- but was sidelined after fracturing the ring finger on his throwing hand in Washington's Week 6 victory in Chicago.
Heinicke, who started 15 games for Washington in 2021, stepped in for Wentz and led the Commanders to five wins in his first six starts this season. However, Heinicke's play -- and Washington's offense as a whole -- started to falter of late, leading to an 0-2-1 record in the last three games.
Wentz replaced Heinicke in the fourth quarter of Saturday's loss to San Francisco and orchestrated an impressive touchdown drive, albeit facing a 49ers defense that was playing soft in coverage. Wentz finished 12-of-16 for 123 yards and a touchdown on the day.
Heinicke's effort to begin Saturday's game was promising. The 28-year-old completed 8-of-11 passes for 89 yards and a touchdown in the first half against San Francisco and made a few impressive throws to convert multiple third-and-long situations. However, Heinicke turned the ball over on consecutive possessions in the second half, which ultimately factored into Rivera's decision to pull him for Wentz.
Following the loss, both quarterbacks handled the situation with class and respect for one another.
"This league is crazy," Wentz said after the game. "Thankfully Taylor and I have an awesome relationship. I've been supporting the heck out of him and he's done the same for me all year. A lot of things are out of our control."
Heinicke offered a similar sentiment. " If I'm starting, I'll give it my all," he said. "If I'm not, I'll try to be the best backup I can be."
"I control what I can control," Heinicke later added. "That's going out and playing as hard as I can -- and that's what I did. If they feel like they need to put Carson in there, OK. I come to the facility every day, work hard and try to be the best I can be. I'll leave it at that."
The Commanders (7-7-1) remain in seventh place in the NFC, the final Wild Card spot. If Washington wins its next two games (vs. Cleveland, vs. Dallas), the club will make the postseason. The Commanders can clinch a postseason berth this week with a win over Cleveland and losses from Green Bay, Seattle and Detroit. Still, it can also be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to the Browns and victories from both the Packers and Lions.