There is a reason why the quarterback position is so important in the game of football. For first and foremost, they are the player who touches the ball every single snap on offense (ok, most of the time, calm down Wildcats fans). Because of this, they have the most influence on how a play will turn out, good or bad. With this alone comes heavy responsibility. You have to know the offense, know the defenses and know yourself at a high level every single week to succeed. That itself is not easy.
But the other aspect of playing quarterback that gives it pressure is the pedestal you're placed on when it comes to leadership. As the quarterback, the eyes on the team naturally rest on you, from both players and coaches. They hang on your every word, they look to you when times are tough, and celebrate you like no other position when things go well. To some, this sounds like a sweet gig. You get to be the main attraction, and people listen to what you say. But that doesn't always work out with every personality. We've seen this element of the position eat good quarterbacks alive. Sometimes it's just not in their nature as a person, but the nature of the job doesn't ease up much in that department.
On the other hand, there are players who love it. They love to be the ones at the center of the circle in the pre-game hype speech. They want to be the voice in the locker room at halftime. They want to be motivating and doing everything they can for each member of the team.
But even those who have the best intentions as a quarterback leader can realize that, when you get to the NFL, leadership becomes a whole different beast than it was in high school and college.
Just ask Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
In Haskins' first start of his career, his team came up short against the New York Jets by a score of 34-17. At the end of the game, Haskins' stat line read 19-for-35 with 214 yards passing, two passing touchdowns and one interception. Not the best game for a first-time starter, but certainly not the worst given the circumstances.
But the main takeaway from the game wasn't Haskins' stats, his misses or even the loss itself. It was a video that surface of Haskins pleading with his offensive line, asking them what he needed to do to help them as they stared off disinterested (seen above).
As the video made its rounds around social media, there were a handful of NFL players who chimed into what appeared to be going on.
I agree with those guys. To me, that video looked like a player who just wanted to do everything he could to win. It didn't exactly look like his teammates shared that sentiment.
To give some updated context to this, Washington offensive tackle Morgan Moses did chime in on what happened in that clip.
"He's a young quarterback," Moses said to NBC Sports Washington. "He's a young player. He's dealing with a lot emotion. And that's why you see me talking to him after the fact... He asked us 'what can I do to help you guys?' It wasn't him coming out and chewing us out... I understood what he was coming from because as a young quarterback, you have an exotic defense like that, you have a star safety [Jamal Adams] that's in the box, he's out of the box.... [Haskins] probably doesn't understand everything that's happening. He's looking downfield, and he's looking for open receivers. So when you get sacked you're wondering where's it's coming from. Simply when it's a 5-man protection and they're bringing seven, someone's going to be free."
Moses then went on to uplift his young quarterback.
"And to give credit to the kid, man, he's a hell of a football player," Moses said. "He's in here willing to learn. He wants to learn. he wants to be great. He's playing through a lot of things that rookie quarterbacks don't normally play through...He's trying to find his way, and we gotta' do a better job of helping him find his way, as well."
Moses' message seemed calm and collected, and sometimes that is what rookies need. If the rest of the offensive line is on that same page, things will work out. But if they're not, if their outlook on Haskins' plea is split, it will only get worse.
As someone who covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I watched something similar happen with quarterback Jameis Winston. In football, Winston was known for his passion as a leader at Florida State. He was that guy in the middle of the huddle. He was that player in the locker room getting guys fired up. He was on their ass when a player wasn't holding his weight. But he led by example. He never asked another player to do something or put in more work than he was willing to put in himself. In college, it worked. His guys followed, they bought in, and he and his team became champions.
But when Winston was drafted to the Buccaneers, though fans loved the passion from their new quarterback, it didn't exactly rub all the players in the locker room the right way. Take the "eat a W" speech as the best example. Was that little corny? Yes, it certainly was, but that was one of many, many speeches Winston gave. You could tell some players around that circle were already burnt out on the guy. In the end, all Winston asked is that the guys around him cared about winning as much as he did. Eventually he realized that wasn't the case, and here in year five, we don't see nearly as many pre-game speeches from Winston. Not that he isn't still a leader for the Buccaneers, but even Winston has said he's learned that guys don't always want a rah-rah leader.
Winston isn't the only example of this. Bad football teams and bad organizations, they usually stay bad, and they have a tendency to take a handful of good players out as collateral in their free fall. When you set up a culture of losing, you invite players to coast. You allow them to care about other things more than winning.
In high school and college the message of winning and self-sacrifice are pretty streamlined. That's the reason why you play the game. It's all you've known. You're also all still young. Being young makes it impossible to lead, but it does make it more difficult when talking about locker rooms in the pros. When you're in the NFL, you're dealing with grown adults. Sometimes these are players who have been in the league more than a decade. Sometimes it's guys who have been starting long before you got there. There are also players who make a lot more money than you, who have experience more than you. All of that can sometimes throw a rift into a common goal, or at least what is perceived to be how to go about achieving it.
Bad organizations stay bad, and it's often because of the message they send throughout the staff and the roster that ruins the talent they acquire before it can even begin to bloom. Sometimes that message gets lost in the age difference between a young quarterback and the team around him.
Let's hope Dwayne Haskins won't be the latest case of a good quarterback -- one who just wants to get better and win -- wasted by a bad team.