When he met with reporters Friday at a team charity event, Redskins executive Doug Williams acknowledged the obvious: Coach Ron Rivera and his staff aren’t “married” to quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Despite Washington drafting the 22-year-old 15th overall in 2019 and propping him up as him the future of the franchise, Rivera has no obligation to stick with Haskins.
Instead, Haskins has to prove himself to the new regime. Williams said as much, as has Rivera.
It’s a reasonable enough approach; an accommodation any football organization might be expected to make for a newly hired head coach — especially one who has been specifically given complete control over straightforward football decisions, like who starts and who doesn’t.
But when you’re the Redskins — a franchise with a conspicuously spotty track record of developing quarterbacks — you don’t get the benefit of the doubt.
Washington’s handling of Haskins has ignited a debate across the sports world, with commentators like ESPN’s Mike Greenberg, host of the network’s morning program “Get Up,” calling the Redskins’ treatment of their quarterback “the definition of how to ruin a young player.”
Greenberg cited former coach Jay Gruden’s reluctance in drafting Haskins last year while noting that other teams like the Cleveland Browns put the full weight of the franchise behind their young quarterbacks.
“It has long been my contention that far more young quarterbacks in the NFL are ruined than developed — and I sincerely hope that hasn’t happened to Dwayne Haskins,” Greenberg said. “But if you wanted to look up the perfect method on how to do it, you couldn’t have done it any better than they’ve done it.
Greenberg’s comments echo those of ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who last year sharply criticized the since-departed Gruden for playing Haskins in a Week 4 loss to the New York Giants, saying it was a situation “set up for failure.”
Later, reporter Josina Anderson said a report of Haskins being “incapable of learning defenses” might be the “most manipulative comment I’ve heard in a while,” adding it played to racial stereotypes.
On Friday, Williams said Haskins will have to establish himself as “the man” under Rivera, telling reporters the Ohio State product needed to stay at the facility “until the coaches run him out of the building.”
Williams, a former Super Bowl-winning Redskins quarterback, who was re-assigned to the development staff this offseason from a personnel role, added the coaching staff understands Haskins is the likely starter, but said the young signal-caller could lose that privilege if he doesn’t prove himself.
“Dwayne has a long way to go, but like I told him, his last game before he got hurt, he was doing what we expected him to do,” Williams said. “He was ascending. Hopefully, the way he goes now is he keeps going up. … I told him — all eyes are going to be on him.”
That may be true, but the Redskins’ public assertions on Haskins greatly differently from the way some of the other teams around the league have discussed their young quarterbacks.
The Denver Broncos, for instance, quickly shot down Monday any assertion the team could be interested soon-to-be free agent Philip Rivers, with a “high ranking” Broncos source telling 9News that they were planning to go forward with 2019 second-rounder Drew Lock.
At the Senior Bowl last month, new Giants coach Joe Judge confirmed the team hired Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator to help develop Daniel Jones, one of the two quarterbacks taken ahead of Haskins in the 2019 draft.
“It’s a quarterback-driven league,” Judge said, according to Newsday.
Jones and Lock were both more consistent last year than Haskins.
Haskins had a rough start to the season as those within the Redskins questioned whether he fully knew the playbook. But the quarterback came on strong near the end of the year, throwing five touchdowns to just one interception in his last three games before an ankle injury caused him to miss the team’s season finale.
Then, late last month, Rivera mentioned the possibility of Alex Smith competing for the starting spot — if the 35-year-old, who sat out an entire season after a gruesome leg injury in 2018, is healthy enough to play.
Even if Smith can compete, the Redskins will likely have to bring in another quarterback — whether through free agency or the draft.
So far, Haskins has said all the right things about having to prove himself to Rivera.
“That’s cool,” Haskins said. “I’m just going to have to work hard and eventually take it over. Just do your best to be accountable for what you have to do and be ready to go.”