ASHBURN — The man standing at the lectern was different, but the general message was the same. When Bill Callahan was asked about the possibility of starting Dwayne Haskins, the Redskins interim coach said the rookie still had a “ways to go” — a phrase coach Jay Gruden uttered more than once over the last few months before his firing Monday.
For those wanting to see Haskins take over as the starter at quarterback, that won’t happen just yet.
But in his first press conference, Callahan laid out his approach to developing Haskins — telling reporters the 22-year-old will get first-team reps in practice over the rest of the regular season.
“It might be a little bit of a shift in philosophy as we move forward,” Callahan said. “So he will be able to take repetitions at some point, whether it’s at the beginning, the end, the middle, but we’re really cognizant of trying to rep him up during the course of the practice so that he is prepared and that he does obviously get exposure to game-type repetitions that can get him potentially to a starting position here in the future or next year, whatever it may be.”
Under Gruden, Haskins did not receive first-team reps in practice once the regular season started until Case Keenum hurt his foot in a Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears. Even then, Keenum missed only two days of practice across two weeks and Colt McCoy took the lion’s share of reps in lead up to Sunday’s loss against the New England Patriots.
With the absence of first-team reps, most of Haskins’ snaps had been from running with the scout team — a common occurrence around the NFL for a backup quarterback.
The Redskins, too, were trying to get Keenum up to speed given this was his first year in Gruden’s system.
Still, Gruden was criticized for his handling of Haskins. Critics argued Haskins wasn’t getting enough work in practice, while others also blasted him for playing the rookie a Week 4 loss to the New York Giants. ESPN analyst Louis Riddick said the 22-year-old was being “set up for failure.”
The narratives fed into a general perception that Gruden was against taking Haskins in the draft.
Prior to the draft, there were reports owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen were the ones obsessed with the Ohio State product, while Gruden and the coaching staff felt like they needed a player who could contribute right away. Haskins’ reputation coming out of the draft was that he needed time to develop — he’d started just one season with the Buckeyes.
“All the coaches are involved in our draft meetings,” Allen said Monday. “When we’re setting the draft board, the coaches are involved and they sign off on everything. … Jay was excited about Dwayne Haskins and I think he probably talked to several of you from OTAs and training camp about how well he was doing.”
Gruden’s firing was seen by some as an opportunity to free up playing time for Haskins. The Redskins are 0-5 and with the playoffs a long-shot, fans and some experts think Washington should use the rest of the season to get a better sense of Haskins’ potential.
But that decision is up to Callahan, Allen said. And so far, the 63-year-old coach says he needs to see more.
Callahan said the Redskins must get Haskins’ “confidence level up” and make him comfortable by finding a package of plays that he can go out and execute.
“That’s the focus right now,” Callahan said.
That leaves the Redskins with the choice of starting Keenum or McCoy for Sunday’s game in Miami. Callahan, who did not announce his starter, even floated the possibility of leaving Haskins inactive on game days, which has not happened this season.
Callahan, though, still wants Haskins to be prepared because “anything can happen.”
“I take it upon myself to be cognizant of where he needs to go and where he needs to be,” Callahan said. “His development is very, very important and there’s a good plan in place, futuristically, for that to happen.”