- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 29, 2019

EAST RUTHERFORD — Dwayne Haskins rubbed his chin and started a smile that turned into a laugh.

Things had not gone the Redskins rookie quarterback’s way in Sunday’s 24-3 loss to the New York Giants.

Haskins did not have the fairytale comeback he wanted when Redskins coach Jay Gruden turned to him midway through the second quarter after benching starter Case Keenum. He did not get his revenge against the team that passed on him in the draft, selecting Daniel Jones sixth overall instead. Haskins didn’t even perform well — tossing three interceptions and completing just nine passes in the loss.

But standing on a post-game podium, Haskins declared that eventually, the Redskins are going to win — so “get used to me smiling up here,” he said.

“Whatever it takes to win, we will do that,” Haskins said. “I don’t like losing. I’ve never lost. I don’t like losing. We’re going to change that.”

For now, though, the Redskins are a winless football team, off to their first 0-4 start since 2001.

Sunday’s performance did nothing to quiet the speculation over Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s job status. The Redskins are searching for answers and look lost.

And despite turning to Haskins, Gruden did not commit to starting the Ohio State product next week against the New England Patriots. He told reporters he would evaluate the situation on Monday. Beyond Haskins and Keenum, Washington could also look to veteran Colt McCoy, who practiced this week for the first time since he suffered a setback with his leg injury in mid-August.

Pointed out Haskins was the future of the franchise — which would be a reason to play the 22-year-old for the rest of the season — Gruden said the rookie would have to earn that label first.

“I don’t care where you’re drafted, when you’re drafted, you need to earn that,” Gruden said. “He’s gotta come in here and perform when he’s asked to perform. If I feel like if he gives us the best chance to win against New England, I’ll put him in there. That’s the way it is at every position with everybody.

“You’re not just handed the keys because of where you were drafted.”

Gruden sounded frustrated after a humiliating loss and ongoing reports he might be fired. The Redskins have yet to announce such a move, but tensions are high. The 52-year-old didn’t expect his team to be 0-4, adding “nobody saw this coming.”

Gruden’s offense mustered just three points and 176 yards against the Giants, who ranked 31st in yards allowed prior to the game. Asked how he would explain the offensive inefficiencies, Gruden rattled off a list of players who weren’t in a Redskins uniform Sunday: Jordan Reed, Trent Williams, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff and Terry McLaurin (the latter two were scratched prior to the game with injuries). Again, the Redskins have been missing key playmakers, so much so that Gruden forgot to include Derrius Guice (knee) among those absent.

Then, Gruden honed in on another explanation.

“The guys who are playing are not executing as well as they should and I’m calling a crappy game,” Gruden said. “My playcalling isn’t good enough, execution isn’t up to par and we have a lot of pretty good players sitting home watching it.”

The Redskins began the game looking lifeless on both sides of the ball. Keenum missed wide-open throws and was intercepted on Washington’s first drive.

The defense was undisciplined and not good enough.

Again, third down was a major problem. On the Giants‘ first drive, Washington made a stop on third-and-7, but New York was called for holding.

Rather than decline the penalty to set up fourth down, Gruden bet that the Redskins would make another third-down stop and push the Giants out of field goal range. He lost that bet. The Giants picked up 15 yards and then another two on fourth down, setting up an eventual 6-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Gallman.

Later, down 14-0, Washington couldn’t capitalize on a Quinton Dunbar interception.

Keenum missed receiver Trey Quinn on a play-action shot up in the seam, overthrowing the slot receiver. The Redskins went three-and-out, prompting Gruden to bench Keenum.

“I’m not thinking about what’s behind me,” said Keenum, who said he was surprised when he was pulled. “I’m not sitting there thinking about if I’m going to get taken out of the game.”

Haskins‘ debut in relief of Keenum left a lot to be desired.

He showed promise — scrambling for 14 yards to set up a 21-yard field goal in the second, for example.

But it was also clear why Gruden and the coaching staff felt the Ohio State product wasn’t ready to play.

On his first interception, Haskins tried to force a throw to tight end Jeremy Sprinkle. Giants safety Jabrill Peppers jumped the route and returned it for a touchdown.

In the fourth, Haskins ignored an open Quinn and took an errant shot deep to Paul Richardson that ended up in Janoris Jenkins’ hands instead.

On his third interception, Haskins wasn’t on the same page with tight end Vernon Davis, who wasn’t expecting the ball. Davis turned around and the ball bounced off his hands for another Jenkins pick.

Still, Haskins wasn’t discouraged after the game. As the quarterback was leaving the field, he noticed cornerback Jimmy Moreland and started a conversation.

Given the results on the field Sunday, it could have easily been Moreland offering encouragement to his quarterback after a tough game. Instead, it was Haskins talking up the cornerback.

“He said we gotta turn this program around,” Moreland said. “We got to turn it around now. He’s the next man up, so he’s just trying to do his job, trying to keep everyone positive and staying focused. … That’s just the best way for us to move forward.”

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