Like with many people around the globe, Taylor Heinicke's 2020 has been an abnormal whirlwind.
The 2015 undrafted Old Dominion quarterback began the year as part of the St. Louis BattleHawks roster in the XFL. Heinicke didn't see the field and was terminated when the league folded in the spring due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
Not seeing many prospects for his NFL future, Heinicke went back to school to finish his engineering degree at ODU.
Then, with injuries piling up in Washington, he got a call in December to be the team's quarantine QB in case of emergency. His familiarity with offensive coordinator Scott Turner's system from their one season in Carolina together in 2018 made the decision easy.
Heinicke just had to get out of a few exams. Luckily, his professors were understanding.
"I had to email them and tell them the whole situation and ask them if I could take them after the season, and they were pretty nice about it," Heinicke said Sunday, via the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "So I'm thankful for that -- didn't have to do a whole semester of work for nothing."
With Alex Smith still battling a calf injury, Heinicke went from emergency quarantine QB to the backup. Then when Dwayne Haskins struggled mightily in Sunday's 20-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Ron Rivera turned to the ODU engineering student.
"It's been a bizarre month or two, but I wouldn't ask for anything different," he said.
Trailing 20-6 with just over nine minutes remaining, Rivera had seen enough of Haskins, benching the starter. Heinicke immediately jumpstarted the offense, taking advantage of soft Carolina coverage.
In two drives with Heinicke at the helm, the Washington offense generated 160 total net yards with 10 first downs, and its only TD. Heinicke had another TD pass on his first drive wiped out by a hold, with that possession ending in a turnover on downs.
In Haskins' nine drives, Washington's offense earned 235 total yards, 10 first downs, two field goals and three turnovers, including two interceptions from the QB. On Haskins' final play, he took a sack on fourth down to thwart a comeback bid.
Rivera noted that Heinicke faced a defense playing soft coverage, which helped the backup move the offense with ease Haskins wasn't afforded. Still, it's notable that Washington's fourth-string signal-caller seemed to have a better grasp of the system than the former first-round pick.
"I thought it was gutsy," Rivera said of Heinicke. "I thought he took advantage of what they were doing in terms of playing soft and allowing him to take the underneath -- allowing him to hit certain throws. I thought his decision to take off and run was outstanding. I thought he had great vision.
"He went through his progressions and read the defense well and gave us a chance, which is all you can ask."
If Smith can't return for a win-and-in playoff scenario in Week 17, it could be the ODU student who gets the start for Washington in prime time with the season on the line.