Why Heinicke is above Ridder on Simms’ QB list

Chris Simms explains to Mike Florio how Falcons backup QB Taylor Heinicke, who landed No. 33 on his Top 40 QB Countdown, ranked ahead of Atlanta’s starter Desmond Ridder, who came in at No. 40.

Video Transcript

MIKE FLORIO: All right, another backup, although he started a lot last year, number 33, Taylor Heinicke, now with the Atlanta Falcons. His first appearance ever in the Chris Simms top 40 quarterback countdown. He had earned the job one week at a time. They never were all in. And the moment he faltered, they went back to Carson Wentz last year in Washington.

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He had them in the playoff picture at one point. He does do some good things. But, but he is still a backup.

CHRIS SIMMS: That's right.

MIKE FLORIO: And he's going to be backing up Desmond Ridder, at least when the season begins.

CHRIS SIMMS: That's right. You know, and as of right now, yeah, I think he's gotten--

MIKE FLORIO: And you've got him higher than the guy he's backing up.

CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, I think he's better than Desmond--

MIKE FLORIO: My neurons are finally connecting. You've got him even higher than the starter.

CHRIS SIMMS: Yeah, I do. I think he's better right now. You know, I think Atlanta's playing on the potential that Desmond Ridder will pass him some point early in the season and make them that much better.


But this is one where, again, like Minshew or Mike White, this is a very value backup quarterback. I think this is the guy where if Desmond Ridder doesn't play very good the first two or three weeks, there might be a short leash. And you go, no, no, we know Heinicke can do some of this stuff, right?

He's got a little of that pizzazz and edge about him, like a Gardner Minshew, right? Now, he's not as accurate as Gardner Minshew. But where he makes up for it, Mike, is a little bit in the things we hit on, where Heinicke's arm is stronger than Gardner Minshew. He does make more power throws and explosive throws. It's not a wow-wow arm, but it's better than Gardner Minshew.

And then Heinicke does a very good job of, when things are broken down, he can get out of the pocket. He can run. And he can make plays off the script, outside the pocket. So that's where he's got a little bit of that backyard element that is very good.

He's-- he's got more release angles than some of the other two guys we talked about that are backups. You know, and then of course, he's got a clutch factor at the end of the football game. But even though Heinicke's a really good football player-- you know, but you heard me in the room on Sundays sometimes.


He misses too many throws where you just go, damn, that-- you're the starting quar-- you can't miss that. The guy's wide open, you know? They're just-- Pete always says the Heini-coaster, right?

But there's these where, hey, this is the perfect game right here. He-- it's 20 to 13. They end up tying this game where you go, well-- look at that play outside the pocket. Great, this is the clutch moment.

They should have been winning this game. But instead, now, because he didn't play that good, he's going on a clutch drive to try to win the football game. And he-- this is Heinicke magic time.

But he's got a little bit of a Shamrock up his butt as far as dropped interceptions, that's for sure. There's some qualities I really like about the kid, I really do. But he's just missing, again, I think the top tier size and arm, and ability to make big-time throws against big-time defenses. And that's why he's the backup quarterback.



MIKE FLORIO: We saw what happened last year when he got a crack, when he got an opening, when he had a window--


MIKE FLORIO: --to replace Carson Wentz. He played well enough that you couldn't take him off the field.

CHRIS SIMMS: That's right.

MIKE FLORIO: That's what could happen this year. If Desmond Ridder gets banged up, and the door opens for Taylor Heinicke, maybe you give him another game. Maybe you give him another game. I mean, I never saw the Commanders have a willingness to fully embrace him. It was just he played pretty well.


MIKE FLORIO: Let's let it ride.



MIKE FLORIO: He played pretty well.


MIKE FLORIO: Let's let it ride until he doesn't play well. Then you say, OK, let's go back to the other quarterback. But he's got the potential to be good.

And I always feel like when he's at his best, he's playing with a reckless abandon that's--


MIKE FLORIO: --sustainable. You're going to get yourself killed if you keep playing like that.


MIKE FLORIO: But he's willing to do it because he never knows when that next opportunity's going to come. It always feels very fleeting and temporary with Taylor Heinicke. But he could be the difference.


And look, if you're going to go with Desmond Ridder, you need a backup you feel good about. And you need a guy that can maybe deliver a victory or two if the starter is injured because that could be the difference between getting to the playoffs or not in a wide open NFC.

CHRIS SIMMS: That's right, and I think this is the perfect situation for if a Taylor Heinicke has to play. That was our issue with-- Washington wasn't very good on offense at times. They weren't a great running football team. That came along as the year went along, but-- so they had to sometimes ask too much of Taylor Heinicke.

The thing I like about what Atlanta's doing there is they're not going to make it all about the quarterback. They're going to go back to 2019 Tennessee Titans, who were in the AFC Championship Game-- defense, run the ball, control the clock, short pass to Bijan Robinson. Ooh, Pitts is open over the middle on a play action pass. Jump ball to Drake London.

I mean, that's how they're going to play. And that's-- that's the kind of situation Heinicke can thrive in. To your point, right, he's not going to be that guy that's going to carry the team and, you know, be a superstar. That's not going to happen.