This past Tuesday we saw Garrett Gilbert replace Taylor Heinicke in COVID stricken season that has caused a lot of change, controversy, and thinking outside the box. But there were also some amazing positives as we saw another example of the crucial need of alternate football leagues, specifically in the spring putting quarterbacks into the limelight.
There are eight Quarterbacks on NFL rosters who have played in the XFL, AAF, UFL and TSL and while some of these men are on practice squads it shows that spring football has awarded an opportunity for people to solidify themselves in the NFL.
Tuesday showed us Garrett Gilbert, a man with a Super Bowl ring who was an UDFA in 2014 meandering around practice squads and didn’t take a snap until 2018 with the Carolina Panthers. It wasn’t until the Orlando Apollos of the AAF allowed Gilbert to show his abilities in the spring of 2019 that has allowed him to extend his NFL career for another three seasons, in which he has made two starts and played admirably in both appearances.
Taylor Heinicke is another Quarterback who was an UDFA in 2015 and shares a similar story to Garrett Gilbert. Heinicke ironically was on the same team with Gilbert in 2018 with the Panthers. Heinicke also meandered from team to team and found himself cut by the Panthers in 2019 and was the backup to Jordan Ta’amu (ironically on the WFT practice squad) with XFL St. Louis Battlehawks. Now Heinicke is “the guy” in Washington with plenty of highlights and memorable moments for The Football Team, including an admirable playoff performance against Tom Brady.
Spring football has allowed players to prove that they are capable and obviously NFL teams are on notice. It’s not just unique to the quarterback position as multiple players of all positions have made their way back into the NFL.
With the USFL getting ready to take place in the spring, will there be more great stories like Gilbert and Heinicke? History shows us that it is completely possible, and I think many fans will continue to root for these guys to have a chance to show us they can play. Especially if it’s between seeing Garrett Gilbert play versus Mike Glennon.
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