- - Tuesday, September 24, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Here we are, three weeks into the NFL season, and we’ve got chaos and carnage surrounding the Washington Redskins already — and we haven’t even gotten to the signature Redskins controversy yet.

The quarterback argument.

Grab your popcorn — this one could be epic. Maybe RG III 2.0.

As starter Case Keenum was helping to hand the Chicago Bears their 31-15 win Monday night with three interceptions and two fumbles, the chants started in the crowd for the Lion King — Simba, otherwise known as Dwayne Haskins, the rookie first-round pick by the organization.

They continued in pockets throughout the game at Ghost Town Field. Then, in the post-game press conference, coach Jay Gruden was asked about considering making a change at quarterback — specifically, starting Haskins Sunday against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.



“No, not really,” Gruden answered. “I think the most important thing is that we have some continuity. I can’t change people every five minutes, and I have to give Case an opportunity playing with these new guys. This is his first time in this offense … I feel like Case has the tools to become a very efficient quarterback in this offense to get us some victories here moving forward.”

The pressure to start Haskins began to build last week even before Keenum’s upchuck performance Monday night, with the news that the Giants would be starting their prize rookie quarterback, Daniel Jones, last Sunday against Tampa Bay. Haskins himself turned up that pressure by tweeting “sheesh” minutes after the news broke about Jones’ start.

The two young quarterbacks have come to be linked in a narrative — again, driven by Haskins — when the Giants passed over Haskins with the sixth pick in the draft and selected Jones. “The league done messed up,” he told ESPN on draft night.

Gruden might disagree with that. From various accounts, he and the coaching staff were higher on Jones than Haskins, and didn’t want to select local Bullis School product with their 15th pick.

But owner Dan Snyder — whose son was a classmate of Haskins at Bullis — did want Haskins, no matter what the coaches wanted.

Gruden hasn’t exactly warmed to the idea of Haskins seeing the field anytime soon. Gruden confirmed Monday in a conference call with reporters that Haskins has been working with the scout team, getting no first-team reps, which would appear to make him unprepared to step in anytime soon.

“It’s hard to get him reps with the No. 1s because you don’t have as much practice time this time of the year,” Gruden said. “During training camp and OTAs you can mix it up pretty equally, but when you’re trying to get a starter ready to play in a game it is hard to get Dwayne a lot of those reps against the ones. What you’re going to see is he is mainly doing scout team right now, but he is learning in the classroom … he just needs to continue to sit back and learn and continue to develop.”

Sit back? I don’t think that is what Snyder had in mind for his quarterback. Nor do I think Haskins, who was empowered by the owner before he ever walked into the Redskins locker room by agreeing to bestow Joe Theismann’s No. 7 jersey to him, has much interest in sitting back — particularly after Jones’s spectacular debut last Sunday, leading the Giants to a 32-31 comeback win over Tampa Bay, completing 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Not only, though, may Haskins have to sit — he may have to move to third chair.

If Gruden does decide at some point to make a change, or is forced to by injury, next man up at quarterback would likely be the coach’s favorite, Colt McCoy — if they can keep the Redskins’ medical staff away from him.

McCoy has been sidelined since last December when he suffered a broken leg in a 28-13 loss to Philadelphia. Since then, under the care of the team’s celebrated medical staff, McCoy has had one setback after another trying to get back on the field after Gruden tried to rush him back for the season finale last year. But now he may be ready to resume practice.

“I think he (McCoy) might be able to take some individual tomorrow,” Gruden said. “As far as the status when he does get back, I think we have to see a lot for him to get back in the lineup as far as his ability to push off and make the accurate throws and stand in the pocket. It is a little bit a ways away, but I’ll be anxious to see him practice Thursday.”

And when pressed again on Haskins being the starter if a change is made from Keenum, Gruden himself suggested the next choice could be McCoy.

I might point out that no one — save for me, Mrs. McCoy and Gruden — have likely ever chanted “We want Colt” here.

“This season is not lost. It’s not over,” Gruden said. “If we feel like Dwayne gives us the best chance to win in a coming game, we’ll definitely put Dwayne in there. If we feel like it’s Colt when he gets healthy, it could be Colt. Right now, we feel like it’s Case Keenum and we’re going to move forward with him this week.”

This is setting up as a showdown between Snyder and Gruden, in some ways similar to the first year Gruden arrived in 2014, when he tried to bench Griffin coming off injury after McCoy led Washington to a 20-17 upset overtime win over Dallas — the team’s last win on “Monday Night Football.” He was overruled by the owner and his imaginary friend, general manager and Prince of Darkness Bruce Allen.

Back then, Gruden backed down. Now, though, possibly in his last days as the head coach of this franchise, Gruden doesn’t seem interested in anyone’s agenda but his own. Unlike Jim Zorn in his final days, I don’t think that Jay Gruden is going to “comply.”

Hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast.

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