Kyle Allen knows a thing or two about how perceptions can shift. He experienced the process himself when he went from being one of the nation’s most highly recruited high school quarterbacks to transferring out of Texas A&M after two inconsistent seasons.
He heard the doubters when he declared for the 2018 NFL draft early only to go unpicked, and he felt the electricity when he won five of his first six starts last year, filling in for an injured Cam Newton with the Carolina Panthers.
And, after losing his last six starts, he understood fans’ frustration.
“At the beginning of last year, people were saying, ‘Get Cam out of there, Kyle’s the savior,’” Allen said. “By the end of the year, they were telling me to retire.”
Now the starter for Washington, Allen acknowledges there are those who may see him as little more than a stopgap solution for the franchise at the game’s most important position.
But perceptions, the 24-year-old knows firsthand, can change.
When the season ends months from now, the expectation is that Washington will be in the market for a new quarterback. The team held on to 2019 first-rounder Dwayne Haskins through Tuesday’s trade deadline, but doubts about his long-term future with Washington persist. Veteran Alex Smith remains a remarkable story, though the reality is that his age (36) and injury history (shattered leg) make it tough to see him under center.
Then, there’s Allen.
The former Scottsdale, Arizona, high school star has nine games — less if he’s benched — to convince fans, teammates and coaches, including Washington boss Ron Rivera, that he’s more than a Band-Aid and better than a back-up.
Asked what it would take for Washington to seriously consider Allen as their quarterback of the future, coach Ron Rivera said Allen had to show further signs of progress.
“I’ve seen him have success, I really have,” Rivera said. “You sit there and you see these things that he’s capable of, and you know what his potential can be. For me, it’s just continued growth. It’s the same thing that we talked about with Dwayne. … As we watch these young guys out here, it’s going to be about development, development, development. Growth, growth growth.”
Washington’s next four-game stretch, starting with this Sunday’s contest with the New York Giants, will be particularly telling when it comes to Allen. The team is eyeing the outings — which come against teams with a combined 8-22-1 record — as crucial in a push for the NFC East.
Allen is tasked with effectively managing games and putting Washington into positions to win.
In three starts this year, he’s shown he’s capable.
Washington’s overall offense has taken a jump in recent weeks as Allen’s familiarity with offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s scheme has paid off. But Allen’s two turnovers at New York in Week 7 cost Washington the game, and a reckless slide against the Los Angeles Rams knocked him out of the contest with an injury.
Turner, though, says Allen learns from mistakes. He saw how last year, even as Carolina’s season was crumbling, Allen kept his composure as the losses piled up. Turner said the experience taught Allen, who threw 11 of his 16 interceptions in his last seven games, that he didn’t have to be a gunslinger. “There’s no such thing as a 14- or 21-point play,” Turner said.
While Allen’s turnovers against New York were brutal, he was dramatically better in Washington’s most recent over Dallas. That win was just the seventh time in 18 games Allen has gone without a turnover — six of those being starts (one of which he exited early with an injury).
Turner said Allen learned late last season to play within the scheme.
“Just run the offense, stack good decisions, and then things have a way of working themselves out,” Turner said.
Allen nodded his head and smiled Wednesday when a reporter asked about the perception that he’s not a franchise quarterback.
He uttered a phrase a lot of quarterbacks use: Control what you can control.
Cliche, perhaps, but one that rings true in Allen’s case.
“People think irrationally,” Allen said, “Especially people outside the building,”