- The Washington Times
Tuesday, December 21, 2021

It’s the most important game of the season, and the Washington Football Team is expected to start quarterback Garrett Gilbert against the Philadelphia Eagles on Tuesday night.

Garrett Gilbert? Who?

With the news Tuesday afternoon that quarterbacks Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen did not test out of the league’s COVID-19 protocols, Ron Rivera is putting the ball in Gilbert’s hands, according to multiple reports, in hopes for a miracle. The Burgundy and Gold, who will be without more than a dozen players due to the team’s coronavirus outbreak, are 9.5-point underdogs against the Eagles, and they’re starting a quarterback who has only been with the team for five days.

Here are five things to know about the newest Washington Football Team quarterback:

1. This won’t be Gilbert’s first time subbing in due to COVID-19.

Last season, Gilbert started for the Dallas Cowboys — the first start of his NFL career. Gilbert was thrust under center due to starter Dak Prescott’s early-season injury and Andy Dalton testing positive for COVID-19. A good week of practice gave coach Mike McCarthy the confidence to start him over two other options.

Gilbert performed admirably for the Cowboys in the 24-19 loss, completing 21 of 38 passes for 243 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

2. Gilbert and Rivera have history.

Like Heinicke, Gilbert spent time in Carolina while Rivera was the Panthers’ head coach.

He was signed to the team’s practice squad in 2017 and was briefly activated to the team’s active roster for the first time in his career that season. He re-signed in December 2018 due to injuries to both Cam Newton and Heinicke, and he served as Kyle Allen’s backup in the team’s final game of the season. He took his first career snaps in that game, completing 2 of 3 passes for 40 yards.

3. Washington is Gilbert’s eighth NFL team.

To say Gilbert, 30, has been a journeyman since being drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the sixth round of the 2014 draft would be an understatement.

Before his time in Carolina, Gilbert spent time on the practice squads of the Rams, Patriots, Lions and Raiders. He then spent much of the 2019 and 2020 seasons on Cleveland’s practice squad before being poached by the Cowboys in 2020. He was active for five games, throwing three incomplete passes in one of them, for the Browns in 2019.

Gilbert was back with the Cowboys for training camp earlier this year, but after getting cut, he signed with the Patriots for his second stint in New England. He remained with New England until Washington signed him on Friday amid the Burgundy and Gold’s COVID-19 outbreak.

4. Gilbert holds a record at the University of Texas.

Gilbert was a high school football star in Texas — earning Mr. Texas Football and Gatorade National Football Player of the Year in 2008.

He played his first three college seasons at the University of Texas and was unsuccessful as the team’s starter as a sophomore in 2010, throwing nearly twice as many interceptions (17) as touchdowns (10). But no other Longhorns signal caller has ever thrown more passes in a game than the 59 attempts Gilbert made in a loss to Kansas State.

Gilbert then transferred to Southern Methodist University for his final two college seasons, and had a good senior campaign in 2013 (21 touchdowns vs. seven interceptions).

5. Gilbert and Heinicke have more in common than just being former Panthers quarterbacks.

Both signal callers played in the Alliance of American Football in the league’s inaugural — and only — season in spring 2019. Gilbert was drafted by the Orlando Apollos in the AAF draft and was arguably the league’s best quarterback before it suspended operations midway through the season, leading all signal callers in yards and passer rating.

Heinicke, meanwhile, was the backup quarterback that season for the St. Louis Battlehawks.

Gilbert is hoping he will share another thing with Heinicke after the team’s game against Philadelphia on Tuesday: playing well for Washington as its emergency quarterback, like Heinicke did against Tampa Bay in the playoffs last season. 

• Jacob Calvin Meyer can be reached at jmeyer@washingtontimes.com.

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