- - Monday, October 25, 2021

We are getting close to Kyle Allen time. That should make Washington Football Team coach Ron Rivera happy.

I think Rivera has been dying to play Allen since Washington traded for him in March 2020. Allen is the only quarterback on the roster that Rivera truly went out of his way to pursue, trading a fifth-round pick to Carolina to get him, despite the presence of an owner-approved No. 1 pick, Dwayne Haskins. Taylor Heinicke was in the cupboard. They signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, yes, but probably only because Allen was not fully recovered from ankle surgery.

Rivera started Allen in Carolina when Cam Newton was hurt in September 2019 and Rivera kept him in there, even when Newton was ready to return.

If Allen hadn’t been hurt last year, he would have been the starter for Washington this season. Why? Because Rivera believes in him.

Rivera is a talker, so he’s got a lot of say. But these words from last December, before the season finale against Philadelphia, still resonate.



Asked by reporters if Allen could have accomplished what NFL Comeback Player of the Year Alex Smith had — leading the team to a 4-1 record, soon to be 5-1 and the NFC East division title with a 7-9 mark, Rivera replied, “Well, if we had a healthy Kyle Allen, I think we could’ve. I really do. I think we could’ve. And a big part of the reason is because of Kyle, he‘s very similar to Alex in terms of his abilities. He‘s got the same kind of arm. He makes good decisions like Alex does. He‘s got good footwork. I think we could’ve been. I do.”

Those words certainly resonated with Smith.

He put the organization on blast for the way they treated him as he worked to come back from his 2018 broken leg, in a postseason interview with GQ.

Rivera said he thought Allen could have led his team to a 5-1 record and the division title. And you don’t play that guy instead of XFL backup Taylor Heinicke?

There was supposedly another one of Rivera’s phantom quarterback competitions in training camp — like there had been in 2020 — but that was simply false. Fitzpatrick acknowledged in interviews he signed with Washington because he would get the chance to start.

Allen wasn’t even part of that phantom competition, anyway.

Rivera made it clear it was supposedly between Fitzpatrick and Heinicke. “We’ve got two clear-cut guys right now,” he told reporters when camp opened.

“I’m not selling Kyle down the river. I think he still has an opportunity to help us, whether it’s immediately or in the future. But we’ll see. I mean, again, it’s about being healthy.”

There you go. It’s reasonable to assume there were questions about Allen’s ankle surgery recovery throughout training camp, so when Fitzpatrick started the season — and lasted just one quarter before going out with a hip injury — Heinicke was the backup, not Allen (Rivera said Monday Fitzpatrick will have an MRI in two weeks and be reevaluated then).

Heinicke played well early in the season, leading Washington to wins over the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons. But here we are now about to come to the end of October, and Washington is 2-5. The longer Heinicke has been out there, the more he has been exposed. He has been more down than up, and coaches prefer quarterbacks who “stay medium,” as the legendary Jim Zorn would say.

Coaches love quarterbacks who do this — make good decisions, like Rivera said of Allen at the end of last season. Here’s what coaches don’t like — quarterbacks who fall down untouched before crossing the goal line.

Rivera is still saying all the right things about Heinicke. He told reporters after their 24-10 loss Sunday to Green Bay he thought Heinicke’s performance “was great. I thought he was very gutsy, very courageous.”

That’s at least the second time he referred to Heinicke as “gutsy.” He used that same word to describe Heinicke’s memorable performance in the wild card game against Tampa last season — the one where Heinicke started in place of Smith.

But I believe Rivera will give Heinicke — purple heart and all — just one more chance in Denver to get it right. It’s a good opportunity.

The Broncos certainly look beatable, though they’ll have 10 days of rest following their 17-14 loss to the Cleveland Browns last week on “Thursday Night Football”.

But if Heinicke turns in a mediocre performance like he has the last several weeks that results in another loss, particularly with the defense improving, look for a change in the bye week before the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to Ghost Town Field.

Then it will be time to see if Rivera is right — if Allen can do what Smith did.

You can hear Thom Loverro on The Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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